By Laura Hayes, Contributing Writer
SHREWSBURY — With the Proposition 2 1/2 budget override approved by voters earlier this month, the Shrewsbury Public Schools will officially be able to offer full-day kindergarten.
Additionally, there will be new elementary school zones next school year with the opening of the new Howard W. Beal School.
“Now, we’re finally getting to where we’re opening the school,” said Vice Chair Sandra Fryc during a May 12 School Committee meeting. “We’re alleviating the overcrowding, and as [School Committee member Jason Palitsch] said, we’re finally able to have free, full-day kindergarten where most of the state has been doing that for a long time.”
New school prompts redistricting
Over the summer, parents will be invited to an open house at their elementary school.
“For a fair number of students, there’s going to be no change,” said Assistant Superintendent of Operations and Finance Patrick Collins. “But, also, for all the students attending Beal, there will certainly be a change.”
According to Collins, Shrewsbury has been working on redistricting for just over a year as the new Beal school gets set to open on Lake Street and as the current Beal Early Childhood Center prepares to close.
A redistricting committee was formed made up of parents from each elementary school as well as principals, administrators and School Committee members.
Several redistricting options were proposed, and in February, the School Committee voted on Scenario 19. At that time, Sawyer told the committee that none of the schools would be considered “racially isolated,” and it minimized the school changes compared to other options and emphasized neighborhood cohesion.
With Beal opening soon, this means the new elementary attendance zones are now divided by five schools instead of four.
Collins noted that the Beal district will now be the largest attendance area in the district, covering both Route 9 and 20. Beal, with a design capacity of up to 790 students.
“It’s going to help us resolve our elementary space problems at all of our elementary schools,” Collins said.
Compared to a December 2019 map, the Beal zone will bring in students that previously fell in the Walter J. Paton, Calvin Coolidge and Floral districts.
Additionally, now, the Coolidge zone will pick up students from the old Floral district. Floral will include kids from Paton while Paton will absorb some of Spring’s students.
Parents will receive a personalized letter with their child’s elementary school assignment. Shrewsbury Public Schools has searchable map for students and parents to find their new elementary school.
Beal enables kindergarten changes
Additionally, with Beal opening, every Shrewsbury elementary school will now house students from kindergarten through fourth grade.
“We’re eliminating one school transition that was in place with the early education model — all kids going to kindergarten at Beal and then going off to their elementary school,” Collins said.
He said the district will now have space for full-day kindergarten for all students and there will no longer be a tuition or lottery for kindergarten.
School Committee member Jason Palitsch called tuition-free full-day kindergarten “a dream long deferred in this community.”
Being able to use Beal to offer it is a realization of something the committee has discussed for years, he said.
“We’re one of the few areas where public education in this community was behind the curve in the commonwealth,” Palitsch said.
According to the district website, the tuition for full-day kindergarten was $2,025 for this school year.
Kindergarten registration will be open by Monday.
“It’s so exciting to be able to fulfill the promise of full-day [kindergarten],” said School Committee member Lynsey Heffernan.