The School Committee unanimously voted to eliminate full-day kindergarten tuition for low-income families beginning in the 2019 to 2020 school year at their meeting Wednesday night.

Prior to the vote, low-income families at level 1 on the chart of income eligibility guidelines were paying a full-day kindergarten tuition of $300 per year. Families at level 2 were paying $1,200 annually.

The income eligibility guidelines are based on factors like income and family size, and are used to determine free full-day kindergarten. Tuition is waived for a family that falls below either level 1 or level 2.

School Superintendent Sheldon Berman said the decision will bring more state aid into the school district. The money Andover will get from the state is a greater amount than the revenue that comes to the School Department by charging tuition.

The state currently fully reimburses the district for the 22 special needs students whose families don't pay full-day kindergarten tuition. Berman said he always believed that applied strictly to special needs students, not students of low-income families.

After talking with officials at the state Department of Education, Berman said he was made aware it also applied to low-income families, and the district would get state aid if their tuition was reduced to zero as full-day students.

"At this point, I think frankly it's something I would support if the committee supports this, to go to zero for low income," Berman said.

Each of the five committee members were largely on board with the approval. Member Shannon Scully said she was glad the information was sought out by Berman, noting the vote of approval was the "right thing to do."

Berman said there are about 20 low-income kindergarten students in the district this would apply to for the upcoming school year.

The cost for full-day kindergarten is currently $3,575 for the 2019 to 2020 school year.


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