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Cheshire Parents Petition To Keep Preschool

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
11:42PM / Monday, February 27, 2012
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Parent Michelle Francesconi is petitioning the School Committee to keep a preschool class at Cheshire Elementary School instead of sending the pupils to Adams.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Parents are trying to stop the preschool at Cheshire Elementary School from being eliminated.

The Adams program was combined with Cheshires' three years ago when Adams Memorial Middle School was shut down. The schools had separate programs but with Plunkett Elementary in Adams overcrowded, the youngest pupils were sent to the Cheshire.

But once middle-schoolers go to the renovated Hoosac Valley High School this fall, room will open up in Adams. The school district plans to keep the program combined but at Plunkett School.

"The decision I made was based on the number of special needs students we would have to transport from Adams to Cheshire," Superintendent Alfred Skrocki told concerned parents on Monday. "If the numbers were reversed, we'd be here."

The schools are required to provide a certain level of service to children with special needs. Since the district goes with a "side-by-side" education model, which means keeping special needs children with other pupils, Skrocki said the district would have to send about a dozen Adams children to Cheshire to keep separate programs and still meet state requirements.

The preschool program currently has 26 special needs children from Adams and only two from Cheshire. When the district ran two separate programs, only a few students were sent to Cheshire to fulfill the requirements but that "gap has become so wide" it is no longer feasible, Skrocki said.

Parent Michelle Francesconi fears that losing the Cheshire preschool program will threaten other parts of the school and is asking the Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee to reconsider.

The school will have about a fifth fewer students next year with the move — there are 54 preschoolers enrolled of only 259 total students this year — and Francesconi fears that would threaten the school's funding or services. Francesconi rallied other parents to petition the School Committee to keep the preschool program.

School officials said programming and funding will remain the same, only the location of the preschool will change. Francesconi had additional questions but the School Committee asked her to provide those questions in writing instead of asking them in open forum.

On Monday, the majority of the School Committee seemed to support the superintendent but members said that since they've heard so many complaints they will take a position at the next meeting.

"My phone has been ringing with concerns for the last two weeks," Gloria Lewis, committee member, said.
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