The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School Board agreed Monday to start a prekindergarten program this fall, although it committed only to the first year out of concern that Albany might not continue providing funding on a long-term basis.
Ken-Ton's trustees voted unanimously to start the program for the 2001-02 school year using $630,000 in state funds. They ordered the district's Pre-K Committee to start ironing out details, including where the classes would be located.
Officials said the entire program would be financed by Albany and would not require extra school taxes.
Under state requirements, at least 234 youngsters must enroll in the program for Ken-Ton to receive maximum aid from the state. At least 23 percent must be "disadvantaged" pupils, there can be only one disabled pupil per classroom, and parents must provide transportation. In addition, the children must be toilet-trained.
At least 10 percent of the children must be located in independently run prekindergarten centers.
Trustees were particularly concerned about whether the state would continue providing high levels of funding for pre-K.
"What the state giveth, the state can take away," said Trustee Alan MacGamwell. "We leave ourselves open to the whim of the State Legislature."
Monday, the board also took a step that appeased -- at least somewhat -- irate parochial school parents.
Trustees agreed to consider improving the hours in which parochial school pupils can use Ken-Ton pools, as well as eliminating the fees they are charged.
The move came after months of hearing parochial school parents complain about their treatment by Ken-Ton, which they said relegated pupils on parochial school swim teams to practice times as late as 8:30 p.m.
They also said the district had increased the fees its charges the Newman League -- the league for parochial school swim teams -- by about $5,000.
The board's decision to re-examine the issue comes at a time of badly frayed relations with parochial school parents. In fact, one group of parochial school parents was so angry with the district that it openly campaigned against the district's $66.3 million renovation bond last December, a move that many observers think was partly responsible for the bond's defeat.
Gary A. Annis, a leader of the parochial school parents, said the board's move to re-examine how it does business with parochial schools is a step in the right direction.
"We're cautiously optimistic, as always with Ken-Ton," Annis said. "I think they are finally recognizing that we are part of the community as well."