Residents who recently received a notice of tuition for the preschool program may be relieved to learn that payment in full is no longer required by August 1.
Parents were notified that the preschool program, which was previously free, will incur a charge of $2,500 per year. The letter stated that full payment is required by August 1. Parents took to various social media sites to voice their disappointment and anger over the sudden change, as well as the lack of payment options.
At the Board of Education meeting on March 18, concerns from citizens were heard during the public comment period before a vote on the motion to charge tuition. John Marino expressed his understanding of the budget cuts and the reasonableness of the tuition cost in comparison to other districts. Nevertheless, he stated that the increase from $0 to $2,500 is significant, especially for those already enrolled in the two-year program. He also voiced concern over the lack of a payment plan option and frustration with the communication to parents of children in the program. The notice, dated March 7, was posted on the website before the board’s scheduled vote on March 18.
The board discussed residents’ concerns and agreed that tuition will not be required in full by August 1, as indicated in the original letter. A lottery will be held for available slots, and once a child has been selected, payment options will be available by contacting the administration. The board then voted unanimously to approve the tuition charge; grandfathering of currently enrolled students was not included in the motion.
Resident Andrea Garcia thought the cost of the program is excessive for a couple of hours a day and wondered why there is no Head Start in Jefferson. Board member Amy Gould said that the preschool program is about four and a half hours door-to-door. “It’s important to remember that our program includes busing; many others do not,” she explained.
The Board of Education website was updated the day after the meeting with a temporary message: “Once your child has been notified of their selection by lottery to attend the preschool program, you will be instructed on the payment options for tuition through the Business Administrator’s office.” On March 21, the board amended the letter to remove the original language requiring the total $2,500 by August 1. According to the website, the deadline to apply for preschool was Friday, March 22, and only hard copy applications would be accepted.
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A new community relations committee has been developed, chaired by board member Amy Gould. The committee will work in conjunction with The Jefferson Chronicle to disseminate information to parents. Gould told The Chronicle, “A lot of misinformation gets out there, and we want to make sure that parents have accurate information.”