Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 22, 2013

Niagara-Wheatfield school board looking at cutting kindergarten to close budget gap

Niagara Gazette — Sometimes the world can be filled with unending complexity. A recent Niagara-Wheatfield School Board meeting served as a microcosm of such philosophy.

It kicked off shortly after 7 p.m. Wednesday with a stirring five minute video showcasing an Errick Road Elementary kindergarten class performing its group play. It was followed by a round of applause – with a few people standing at the same time – as children from that class tried their hardest not to be embarrassed by the crowd.

The meeting ended an hour later with the crowd shocked and the school board directing its superintendent to explore the option of ending kindergarten in the district as a way to close a $1 million budget gap heading into next year.

“Based on the numbers, we’re looking at about 20 full-time equivalency positions we need to cut,” board member Christopher Peters said. “I think we need to look at cutting kindergarten. That’s 15 FTEs. It’s not a mandated item and we have to consider what affects the least amount of students.”

In his comment, Peters clarified his statement, saying while kindergarten only affects one grade level, music, art and sports affect children over many. But parents at the meeting were flabbergasted, despite any additional thoughts. And they let Peters, board President Steve Sabo and the rest of the seven-member group know exactly how they felt about the idea.

They saw proposing the loss of kindergarten as a potential deal breaker. They said it has the ability to affect every single student in the district, not just one grade level like how Peters originally interpreted his request. It brought one parent to tears as he stood at the microphone, distraught by the choice the district was presenting.

“I have three children and your proposals have hit all three,” Vince Capoluco said. “One’s going to go into kindergarten, one’s a second-grader who loves music and the third is a middle school student who’s a great athlete. Which do I pick? I’ll tell you which, my kindergartner. Because I want her to have the same chance the other two had. I get emotional for my kindergartner.”

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