VTPS continues to investigate full-day kindergarten potential

Potential recommendation expected later this spring

The Voorhees Township Board of Education held its reorganization meeting Jan. 6 at its administration building, swearing in three members elected in November.

Dawn Wallace, Dana Galiano and John Schmus all won reelection in uncontested elections for their open seats. Wallace received 33.21 percent of the vote, while Galiano received 33.17 percent and Schmus received 32.96 percent.

As students returned to district schools for the second half of the year, The Sun sat down with superintendent David Gentile to talk about what lies ahead for the district.

As previously discussed at board meetings, the district continues its efforts to investigate the potential of full-day kindergarten through a feasibility study. Through the study, the district wants to determine each building’s capacity.

“In addition to what we’re doing with regard to exploring if full-day kindergarten is the right direction for the district, part of what we’re doing is also looking at future enrollment and each building’s capacity,” Gentile said.

“We’re looking at if each individual [school] might be over or under capacity, because we want to keep a nice balance in terms of class size between the four elementary schools so that, regardless of which one students might attend, that they get a similar experience in terms of the core programs.”

Gentile revealed he has worked with those in charge of the feasibility study to review specific aspects of the district, and met with an architect near the end of December.

According to the superintendent, some information provided to the district already has helped the board and administration make certain determinations about the future of the district. For example, the administration building will no longer be considered and repurposed for another use.

“The notion of taking the administration building and trying to convert it into some sort of early childhood center doesn’t seem like a feasible option at this point in time,” Gentile insisted.

“We don’t have enough room here to do the things that we would’ve wanted to, so it’s not as high on our potential to-do list as it was before.”

Gentile noted that the district had another company do an enrollment projection, by considering class size and the potential need for redistricting across the four elementary schools.

The study showed overcrowding, most notably at Osage Elementary School. But in reviewing the information as a district, Gentile said he feels the data “was not 100 percent accurate” due to insufficient information being used in the projections.

“It’s kind of a good news, bad news situation in receiving the data,” he explained. “Where we thought we might have overcrowding issues in the years coming, there aren’t any at those schools or we believe we can handle them much easier than we anticipated.

“You don’t like to see that the report wasn’t 100 percent accurate, but the issues down the road don’t appear to be as bad as they were made out to be.”

The feasibility study still is expected to continue throughout much of the school year’s second half. Gentile said the district will continue to investigate and discuss the potential of full-day kindergarten in a variety of ways, from educational programs to taxes and allotted space and more.

Gentile hopes to have a recommendation for the board sometime during the spring of this year regarding whether the district will pursue full-day kindergarten. But a recommendation to approve the motion would most likely mean full-day kindergarten would not be instituted until at least the ’21-’22 school year because the superintendent wants to ensure there is enough time to correctly review all potential options, inform the community and smoothly implement the change.