As many as five more classrooms will be available for full-day kindergarten next fall with the use of Monatiquot School.
The School Committee approved a plan Monday night to re-open the portion of Monatiquot not being used by Meeting House Montessori, despite concerns from some members about a potential lack of security at the building.
As officials continue to discuss a long-term approach to space needs, the committee made the decision to use the former elementary school because demand for full-day kindergarten had far exceeded the space available at Braintree High School and in home schools.
Prior to the committee's decision, there were potentially only 100 spots available (60 at BHS and 20 each at Hollis and Morrison) for the families of 229 students who had expressed interest, Superintendent Dr. Peter Kurzberg said.
Now there could be as many as 200 seats for 2013-2014, depending on how many of those families commit to the program, which requires annual tuition of $3,000 unless the student is eligible for free or reduced lunch, in which case the price is cut in half.
The committee also approved a one-year lease for Montessori. Stephen Putnam, the founder of Braintree's chapter of the school, said Monday night that staff and parents had been waiting anxiously for a decision so that they would know where they would be next year.
Putnam said that the addition of the full-day kindergarten students to the 144 Montessori students in pre-school through grade five already at Monatiquot "would be interesting," with drop-off and pick-up the biggest issue.
"We could figure out how to make it work," he said.
As with BHS, there would likely be no transportation available for a full-day program at Monatiquot. There would be one teacher and one paraeducator per classroom, no permanent nurse or secretary and one roving administrator, probably a principal from nearby Hollis or Flaherty.
"This would be a temporary solution," Committee Chair Shannon Hume said. "We don't want to rush the long-term plan for the needs of the district."
Hume said the committee would evaluate the full-day program again next year. She also said that the school will not open to Braintree students unless security is on par with existing schools, which Hume said she felt confident would happen over the next few months as Braintree rolls out an updated school security plan.
A security camera removed from the back entrance designated for full-day kindergarten could easily be re-installed, Business Manager Peter Kress said, and buzzers and intercoms could be installed in the classrooms. Teachers could also be trained in first aid and CPR.
Still, member David Ringius, an assistant district attorney in Norfolk County, expressed concerns about approving the use of a building before security issues are addressed. Lisa Heger also voted against the proposal for similar reasons.
With no administrator in the part of the building Braintree will utilize, no one would be coordinating response in case of fire, medical or other emergency, Ringius said.
"That worries me," he said.
Dr. Kurzberg said that a "head" teacher could be designated, and that school staff are trained to contact 911 if there is an emergency. Mayor Joseph Sullivan said there will be further school security discussions, involving the entire district, likely at the committee's meeting later this month.
Pam Kiley suggested prioritizing the use of the high school and Monatiquot before Hollis and Morrison to make sure that classroom space at the home schools is adequate for current needs. Kiley has long been a proponent of opening a kindergarten center at the former school.
After speaking with the principals at those schools, Dr. Kurzberg said there would be enough room for the needs of all grades, at least regarding "major" space issues. Opening classrooms at Monatiquot would free up at least one classroom at each school except Ross, which has an especially high-demand for kindergarten, he said.
This year, the full-day program includes classrooms at Flaherty, Hollis and Morrison. Flaherty has not been identified for a full-day class next year, however.
Parents will be notified about the change starting Tuesday, Dr. Kurzberg said, and will be provided the option of indicating if they would like to send their children to BHS or Monatiquot. The district will try to keep students from the same elementary schools together as it sorts out where to place them.
Operating and start-up costs would almost entirely be covered by income from tuition, with about $30,000 that could be covered by rental income or potential capital money from the town.