School Committee Drops Kindergarten Fee ‘Forever’

Photo: Kindergarteners heading to class

With the avalanche of changes and challenges foisted upon the Belmont public schools since March, Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan told the Belmont School Committee on Wednesday, Sept. 2, he finally had some good news to announce, akin to “chocolate chip ice cream [with a] nice hot sauce.”

The $3,500 tuition fee for kindergarten is being dropped.

“This is a great news story,” said Phelan as the committee voted unanimously to approve the district’s recommendation. In fact, the committee approved the motion where the fee is eliminated “for this year and forever.”

Belmont had offered a full-day, fee-based kindergarten program or a cost-free morning program of three hours and fifteen minutes which the state reimbursed parents costs.

For the past four years, the district has been charging its youngest students tuition to attend full-time after the state took away the Kindergarten Expand Grant that supported the all-day program since 1999.

But by making a one-time “investment” of $400,000 this year, the state will reimburse Belmont in subsequent years up to $1.3 million in added Chapter 70 funds, more than the $900,000 the district spends to operate the full time program.

“It’s basically the dollars the state was willing to pay us being used for kindergarten, that we didn’t collect from them because we were charging parents,” said Phelan.

“In the long run … it’s a good story for our families who don’t have to have money be the obstacle and from an equity standpoint, it actually increases the number of families that we think will go into kindergarten this year,” said Phelan.

It wasn’t a surprise that the school committee approved the measure unanimously.

“I mean, who can possibly vote against chocolate chips and nuts and whipped cream?” asked Committee Chair Andrea Prestwich.