Til­gh­man pre-K can­celled due to low num­bers

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH BOLLINGER jbollinger@star­dem.com Fol­low me on Twit­ter @jboll_ star­dem.

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.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

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.

KELLY GRIF­FITH

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