The Evesham Township School District will work on implementing a free, full-day kindergarten program and continue focusing on its mission to provide students with growth opportunities in 2023.
School Superintendent Dr. Justin Smith explained the district’s focus for the second half of the school year will remain on providing for its students as schools continue adjusting to fewer COVID restrictions.
“(We want) to continue to fulfill our mission, which is student growth,” he noted. “(This includes) providing the best possible education, support, and opportunities that we can. (The district) is continuing to move forward to a new normal, resuming more and more of what was possible prior to the pandemic and adding new components.”
Smith explained that the district has three key goals it hopes to achieve through 2025. One involves enhancing early-childhood programming by implementing full-day kindergarten for all students and eliminating half-day and tuition-based, full-day programs.
Evesham is one of just two districts remaining in Burlington County, and one of just eight districts statewide that still have tuition-based, full-day kindergarten. To provide a tuition-free, full-day program for every student in September 2024, the district plans to put a question on the November ballot that is likely to also include other potential needs identified in the upcoming 2023-‘24 school budget.
“We are currently in the process of determining that budget,” Smith said. “More information will be shared in March once the budget and ballot question are finalized.”
Smith explained the reason for a ballot question is partly due to state-aid reductions of 52 percent, which would force the district to eliminate programs in order to have the funds required to implement free kindergarten for all residents.
“The ballot question is needed to accomplish this goal, in part because the state aid we receive each year has fallen from $13.9 million to $6.7 million over the past six years, with additional aid reductions of another $1.2 million projected over the next two years,” Smith pointed out.
“The state is imposing these cuts despite the fact that our district is already cost-efficient.”
The superintendent also noted that out of the 73 kindergarten-through-eighth-grade districts that have more than 750 students, Evesham ranks number 58th in cost per student. Ranking number one goes to the district that budgets the most per student, and number 73 to the district that budgets the least.
According to Smith, the state average yearly cost per student in all K-through-8 districts is $19,060, while the yearly cost per student in Evesham is $16,640.
One district goal is to increase student achievement in the area of literacy by refining English Language Arts (ELA) instruction that aligns with the New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS) content and practice standards. The focus of that refinement is on increasing opportunities for high-success reading, text analysis, and integrated word study. Another goal is to improve district protocols and procedures to increase employee attendance rates.
Smith cited the district’s community partners and township residents for their continued support of the Evesham schools.
“Our district appreciates every ounce of support to maintain the quality of our educational program, from our staff to our families, our PTAs/PTO, the Evesham Education Foundation, our township and council, our Evesham police department and fire and rescue, (as well as) local groups like Marlton Rotary, Marlton Recreation Council, Marlton Elks, Marlton Business Association and more,” he said.
“This work takes a village, and our village is Evesham,” Smith added. “It’s a big part of why families move here – including my own, years ago – for the schools, and to be part of a supportive community.”