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Archive for Saturday, April 22, 2006

All-day kindergarten plans in limbo

April 22, 2006

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Among Lawrence educators, there's been a lot of talk about bringing back all-day kindergarten.

"It's one of my highest priorities," Supt. Randy Weseman said.

It could happen. Then again, it may not.

Lawrence had all-day kindergarten until three years ago, when budget pressures forced a return to half-day classes.

Money is still a problem. Weseman figures all-day kindergarten would cost an additional $1.2 million. The district, he said, doesn't have that kind of money.

It might if the Legislature pumps an few hundred million new dollars into the state's school finance formula.

"They say they're going to," Weseman said, "but whether they do and whether it gets earmarked for all-day kindergarten is anybody's guess. I'm not taking anything for granted."

Today, roughly two-thirds of the state's 300 school districts offer all-day kindergarten, reaching 43 percent of the state's 35,000 kindergartners.

"All-day kindergarten is high on the list of programs we'd like to see the district offer," said Lawrence school board member Cindy Yulich.

Yulich said she, too, has heard conflicting reports of money for all-day kindergarten being added - and not being added - to the state's 2007 budget, which begins July.

"The question is whether money is specifically set aside for at-risk students and then whether all-day kindergarten falls under the at-risk umbrella," Yulich said.

"Right now, we don't know."

Without an increase in state aid, Weseman said the district might be able to offer all-day kindergarten if enough families are willing to pay for it.

"We think we can do it," Weseman said. "But the bottom line is we need to know how many people would be willing to participate in some kind of phased-in, fee-based system."

Lawrence school officials have been polling parents during kindergarten roundups earlier this month to assess the interest. The proposed cost at the time of the poll was $240 per month.

"We can't wait for the Legislature to get around to doing whatever it's going to do," Weseman said.

The Legislature reconvenes Wednesday.

"There's a lot of planning that has to take place beforehand. You don't just throw something like this together," Weseman said.

Parents also would be asked to pay the standard one-time enrollment fee - $112 - to cover instructional materials, technology and activity trip transportation.

The fees would not apply to students eligible for free or reduced-priced meals.

District plans call for offering all-day kindergarten in all 15 elementary schools. Parents could send their children for only a half-day, if they prefer.

Because four elementary schools - Hillcrest, Quail Run, Sunflower and Sunset Hill - do not have enough classroom space to accommodate their entire enrollments, cluster sites at New York and Langston Hughes would handle the overflow.

The district would provide transportation to the cluster sites.

Survey results, Weseman said, will be presented to the Lawrence school board May 8.

Another option, he said, would be to offer all-day kindergarten at some schools, half-day kindergarten at others.

But that's not likely to work, Weseman said, because past surveys have shown that, given a choice, parents opt for all-day kindergarten "85 to 90 percent of the time."

"If we did that, there might be one half-day kindergarten somewhere, maybe two," he said. "There wouldn't be very many - there might no be any, because everyone would want full-day."

It also would set the stage for some kindergartners going to one school; their elementary school-age siblings going to another.

Another option calls for adding all-day kindergarten at one or two schools a year until it's available districtwide. The district has 15 elementary schools.

Weseman he expected the school board to pick a put together a plan for enacting all-day kindergarten later this spring.

"We'll know by May, one way or the other," he said.

Several board members already have voiced support for bringing back all-day kindergarten.

"A lot is going to depend on what happens in Topeka," Yulich said.

Earlier this year, the State Board of Education urged lawmakers to set aside $77 million to help school finance moves to all-day kindergarten.

"Kindergarten is one of those long-term, well-proven routes to making sure kids are ready to succeed in school," said Bill Wagnon, a state board member whose district includes Douglas County.

Studies have shown that all-day kindergarten improves student achievement.

Comments

leftwingfarmboy 8 years, 8 months ago

Why these unpatriotic 5 year olds. Don't they know a war is going on.

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