As we approach tomorrow’s budget referendum, I want to clarify something I have gotten a number of questions on. Included in this year’s budget proposal is funding to reopen the Roger Wolcott building for the purposes of a preschool program for three and four year olds run by Windsor Public Schools. This program will not be for all of our three and four year olds, as I have seen it advertised. It will be offered to, at most, 60 additional students. We have not had a discussion at the Board level as to how those students will be chosen – whether it will be on a first come, first serve basis, or whether students will be screened in some way based on need.
I do not support the proposed program, and I voted against having the costs to reopen Roger Wolcott included in the Board of Education’s budget presentation to the Town Council. While we will receive state grant dollars to put towards the cost of starting this program, there will still be a large cost to this program that will be borne by the taxpayers, both at start up for capital costs and for long term operation. Perhaps most importantly, the Roger Wolcott building is not large enough to house a preschool program for every preschool aged child in Windsor. That is one of the reasons it was closed when the district went to all day kindergarten – it was not big enough to fit all of our kindergarten students at one time.
If we as town leaders are asking the citizens of Windsor to increase their tax burden to fund a program, we should be clear about what that program is. We will be incurring the cost of reopening a building that needs significant renovations and refurbishment to provide free preschool to, at most, an additional 60 students, without the hope of being able to expand in that location to fit all of our preschool age children. We did not take the time to discuss the true, long term costs of this program, exactly who the program will be serving, or look at options for partnering with existing private or town sponsored prekindergarten providers. Pushing this program forward without discussing all of the options or all of the long term ramifications is not in the best interest of our children, and is not what is best for the town of Windsor.