More schoolchildren are expected to join the Public School System in September when the school year opens as a result of the reconfiguration of middle schools that will pave the way for the expansion of the kindergarten program.
Board of Education chair Herman T. Guerrero disclosed this to Saipan Tribune, adding that he is convinced that more classrooms would become available next school year to accommodate more kindergarteners.
The kindergarten program, which accommodates 5-year-old children, is not required by law. However, the education board implemented it so it could serve a greater number of children in the Commonwealth. The program is currently offered in half-day sessions in schools due to the lack of teachers and facilities.
Effective this fall, six elementary schools will be merged to become middle schools. San Vicente Elementary School will start accommodating students from kindergarten to fifth grade and would transform the Dandan Elementary School into a middle school. The same plan has been approved for Koblerville Elementary School, which will soon be home to kindergartners to fifth graders. This will lead to the transformation of San Antonio Elementary School into another middle school for sixth to eight graders.
The merger of Tanapag and Gregorio T. Camacho elementary schools will pave the way for the creation of the Tanapag school as a middle school, while GTC would have kindergarten to fifth grade.
Guerrero said it’s been years since the BOE approved the implementation of a full-day kindergarten program. However, as a result of the lack of classrooms and teachers, only a few campuses have managed to enforce the full-day classes.
“The shortage of classrooms for the expansion of the kindergarten program has been our main issue since the beginning. With the middle school concept (effective school year 2014-2015), we’re expecting some classrooms to be made available for more kindergarten students next school year,” he said.
At present, only six of 12 elementary campuses enforce whole-day kindergarten sessions.
Each year, PSS sees a growth in the volume of children on the program’s waitlist. By having full-day sessions in all elementary schools, each campus may accommodate up to over 100 kindergarteners every school year.
“At PSS, financial is always a challenge. So we need to be creative to make sure that we serve the Commonwealth’s students. Kindergarten is not a mandatory program but we’re hoping the parents would seriously look into the program so we can serve their children before entering first grade,” said Guerrero.