The Vernon Township School District Board of Education on Feb. 11 in a reversal of its pre-pandemic decision is leaning toward moving the preschool program back into the Walnut Ridge school.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the district had been looking at marketing the school for either sale or release, but social distancing guidelines and the possibility of a larger kindergarten in the 2021-22 school year has the Board of Education making other plans.
Assistant Superintendent Charles McKay said he believes this year’s kindergarten class of 150 students is an aberration as he believes some families delayed entering their children into kindergarten in 2020-21 due the Covid-19 pandemic. He estimated this year’s kindergarten class is about 60 students short and if those 60 come next year, the kindergarten class could rise to as many as 270 students.
“I think space is something we have to talk about,” Superintendent Karen D’Avino said. “The biggest challenge in planning for next year is that there’s no direction. We have no idea what September is going to look like. Social distancing may still be required, and virtual learning may still be an option.”
She said if social distancing is still required the district will need three times the square footage to education the same number of children.
It costs the district about $300,000 per school year to operate Walnut Ridge.
“My concern is the large expense operating this building,” Board of Education President Justin Annunziata said. “I want to have a degree of confidence that we’re going to need the space.”
There was talk of moving both pre-K and kindergarten to Walnut Ridge in 2021-22.
“If you just move Pre-K, Cedar Mountain may still be packed,” school board member Joe Sweeney said.
However, it was determined that if both kindergarten and Pre-K were moved, the district would have to realign the schools.
D’Avino said she would rather budget to use Walnut Ridge and not have to use the building.
“My concern is the large expense operating this building. I want to have a degree of confidence that we’re going to need the space.” Justin Annunziata, school board president