School District has told the state Department of
Education that it has "the capacity and the intent"
to implement full-day kindergarten, but board
members found a couple of significant problems in
Nancy Doorey pointed out that
dividing the number of children expected to be in the
program by the number of classrooms available according to a
district report indicates that average class size
would exceed the 22-student limit in four or five of the
nine elementary schools and run as high as 27 in one of
She declared that to be
unacceptable. "We've been trying to get those numbers down.
It seems we're going for quantity rather than quality," she
Board president Craig Gilbert
objected to the prospect of having to impose "a back-door
tax increase" to pay the district's share of the cost of the
additional teachers that would be needed. Chief financial
officer David Blowman estimated that would be in the range
of an additional 2¢ for each $100 of assessed property value
which he said the General Assembly is likely to permit to be
levied without having to put the increase before voters in a
Blowman, however, told the
board at its meeting on Dec. 19 that the estimate is nothing
more than an educated guess. "The [school financing] system
is so convoluted it's hard to come to the bottom line," he
Although the meeting agenda
said the district administration was recommending that
full-day kindergarten be implemented in all of the
elementary schools in the academic year beginning in
September, 2006, superintendent Bruce Harter said he was not
seeking immediate board approval.
He said the report was
presented to obtain board reaction and initiate discussion.
Referring to Doorey's objections to indicated class sizes,
he acknowledged that "there is one glaring weakness" in the
"We'll come back in January.
... We're saying we're willing to do it; now we have to wait
for the legislature to say it's a go," Harter said. The
General Assembly is expected to enact legislation mandating
that full-day kindergarten be offered throughout the state
during its session beginning in January.
The report apparently
resulted in what was literally a last-minute modification in
the arrangement for leasing the sites of the former Channin
and Old Mill Lane schools to county government for
subleasing to youth athletic leagues.
Doorey insisted, and the rest
of the board agreed, that approval of the lease agreements
be conditioned on obtaining from state legislators
representing Brandywine Hundred written acknowledgement that
the arrangement for providing the properties does not
constitute a precedent for how to manage surplus district
property in the future. Sites of the Bush Early Education
building in Sharpley and the district administrative offices
in Radnor Green are scheduled to fall into that status
during the coming third phase of the district's building
renovation and realignment program.
Legislation enacted two years
ago waived state law requirements dealing with disposal of
surplus public property in favor of the deal with the county
and the youth leagues.
The final version of the
leases extend their term to 20 years and three months from
the district's initial desire to have them run for 10 years.
The earliest the district can begin the process of
reclaiming the properties is 15 years from now. And then it
can only take them back if kindergarten-through-third-grade
enrollment has grown by 30% or more over the present level.
Those provisions are "the best we can do given all the
circumstances," Barbara Meredith, director of support
services, told the board.
She referred to "issues that
were involved in the negotiations," but did not elaborate.
Concord Soccer Association
and Talleyville Girls Softball League, to whom the county
intends to sublease the sites, sought the longer terms
to make it easier to obtain financing for improvements that
will make to provide playing fields. As Delaforum previously
reported, the Concord organization already has filed a
preliminary development plan with the county Department of
Doorey said she understands
the leagues' position and supports their activities, but
said that capacity information in the report on full-day
kindergarten and the prospect of public school districts
later being obliged to provide pre-schools and more before-
and after-school care indicate "we're maxing out on space."
She initially sought to delay
approval of the leases, which has been pending for several
months, to include safeguards against the district being
caught in such a bind, but agreed to settle for imposing the
added condition. Meredith said County Council is insisting
on being able to give its assent by approving a resolution
at its Dec. 20 meeting.
It was not clear how many or
which legislators would have to provide the written
acknowledgement, how they could be required to do so other
than voluntarily, and how such agreements would bind future
Judy Curtis, director of
education services, said a survey of parents found 155 of
those responding favoring full-day kindergarten against 12
preferring half-day sessions. But she acknowledged in
response to board members' questions that information about
class size and a possible tax increase was not included in
The proposal in her report
provides for offering half-day kindergartens as an option at
Forwood and Lancashire Elementary. Curtis said children
enrolled in those classes who live outside the respective
attendance zones would be provided free bus transportation.
They would be eligible to continue in those schools for
first, second and third grades.
Brandywine currently offers
one or two full-day kindergarten classes in each of its
school. Tuition is charged with subsidies provided. The
expanded program would not require payment.
She said the 35% local share
of salaries and other employment costs for and additional
seven regular teachers, four additional art, music and
physical education teachers, and a nutrition worker would be
about $237,000. There would be another $181,000 of
additional estimated cost, but Blowman said that would
probably be offset by increases in other kinds of state
According to calculations
drawn from data on what is proposed for individual schools,
class size would average nearly 27 at Carrcroft Elementary
and range up to that at Lancashire, depending upon whether
three or four additional classrooms can be provided there.
It would top the 22-student limit at Darley Road and
The proposal suggests that
two additional classrooms be constructed at Lombardy, which
would reduce class size there, but it is not certain whether
the district would have to bear the usual share of
construction costs. Blowman told the board he is "pursuing
some options with the state that would permit us to avoid
that." He did not elaborate.
Board members questioned the
accuracy of a projected districtwide kindergarten
enrollment of 712. Current enrollment is 673. No data on how
many of them attend full days and how many half days was
immediately available. Curtis said the projection includes
children whose parents might opt for public school instead
of non-public schools which offer full-day kindergarten.
"That is not an easy thing to pin down," she said.
In other matters at the
• The board approved
converting Maple Lane from a
kindergarten-through-third-grade school to a
kindergarten-through-sixth-grade one by adding one grade in
each of the three academic years. As Delaforum previously
reported that represents a break in Brandywine's previous
commitment to four-tiers of schools.
• A final budget for the
current fiscal year was adopted. It contains no substantive
change from the preliminary budget. It shows a total
depletion of a carryover balance by the end of fiscal 2008.
Blowman said that the district is looking for a 46% increase
in the cost of natural gas this year to be followed by a
large increase in electricity cost in fiscal 2007. He said
state support for those expenses is not keeping pace with
• A policy requiring a year's
suspension for elementary- and intermediate-age students who
are found to have items which fit the legal definition of
weapons but who have no apparent intention of using them to
harm anyone be modified to allow less-severe discipline
deemed appropriate for the circumstances of the individual