Tilghman pre-K cancelled due to low numbers
Talbot County Public Schools has cancelled Tilghman Elementary’s pre-kindergarten program for this year, heightening tensions among Tilghman Islanders who are worried about potentially losing the entire elementary school for budget reasons. But the preschool program was cancelled due to meager enrollment, Superintendent Kelly Griffith said.
TILGHMAN — Talbot County Public Schools has cancelled Tilghman Elementary’s pre-kindergarten program for this year, heightening tensions among Tilghman Islanders who are worried about potentially losing the entire elementary school for budget reasons.
But the preschool program was cancelled due to meager enrollment, Superintendent Kelly Griffith said, adding that it’s the type of decision the school system has to make every year when looking at various courses and classrooms in all county schools.
Griffith said the school system has to have a certain number of students enrolled in a particular course in order have a dedicated teacher for it. The preschool program, which is optional, had only five kids enrolled this year at Tilghman Elementary, she said.
“I can’t be a fiscally responsible steward of taxpayer money by having one teacher with five children” when there’s a classroom they could go to in St. Michaels, Griffith said. “It’s just not good to have five students with one teacher, then I have other teachers in the county with one classroom with 24 or 26 students.”
“It’s not a decision that’s taken lightly, but we do have to discuss these kinds of things every year,” she said.
The kids will be taken by bus to St. Michaels Elementary rather than go to class on Tilghman. Several years ago, all pre-kindergarten classes for Tilghman Island residents were held at the elementary school in St. Michaels, so it would not be the first time kids from Tilghman are going to pre-K in St. Michaels.
But for some, with the threat of losing the elementary school on Tilghman, and the class for those five preschoolers scheduled to start on Tuesday, Sept. 12, the decision is disappointing.
Island resident Robin Harrison has a grandson who moved from North Carolina to go to school at Tilghman Elementary and was one of the five signed up for preschool there this year.
Harrison said that with all the troubles Tilghman has been through recently — losing the only bank on the island, a stifled economy partly blamed on the shrinking Knapps Narrows waterway channel — being “blindsided” by the cancellation of the pre-K program on Tilghman only further compounds islanders’ concerns.
“It makes it really hard for people to have any sense of security,” Harrison said. “A lot of parents, I don’t know how they feel about sending their four-year-old on the bus with high schoolers for an hour. I guess these kids are just going to miss out on their education.”
“People are a little uneasy, but at the same time, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I (had one teacher) with three, four, five kids all day long, or not utilizing my staff to its fullest extent,” Griffith said. “I was hoping there would be at least 8 or 9 (students), but it didn’t get there.”
Griffith plans to hold a community meeting with Tilghman Island residents near the end of September to discuss trending data related to Tilghman Elementary and discuss the school’s future. However, Griffith stressed that absolutely no decision has been made on the school’s future, and that there is a lengthy process involving a committee, the school board and then public hearings and meetings before any decision is made.
Tilghman Elementary School students celebrated Unity Day on Oct. 18, 2016, which was kicked off on Oct. 17 with an assembly, “Bullying is Bad 4 Your Health” by the Nu World Art Ensemble.