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Archive for Monday, December 27, 2010

Full-day kindergarten tuition in Lawrence faces fickle finances

Barbie Gossett, a kindergarten teacher at Woodlawn School, works with her class during a reading exercise. From left are Luke Poloncheck, Riley Honeyman, Danny Reagan, Joe Schmidt and Abi Krise.

Barbie Gossett, a kindergarten teacher at Woodlawn School, works with her class during a reading exercise. From left are Luke Poloncheck, Riley Honeyman, Danny Reagan, Joe Schmidt and Abi Krise.

December 27, 2010

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Full-day kindergarten at Woodlawn

Jeanne Fridell, principal at Woodlawn, explains the benefits of providing full-day kindergarten. The school, at 508 Elm in North Lawrence, is one of eight in the Lawrence school district to offer the program. Included in the video are Barbie Gossett and her kindergarteners at Woodlawn. Enlarge video

Full-day kindergarten gives students more time to learn in class, more chances to get along with others and more exposure to their school’s building, responsibilities and routines that will become part of their academic lives for the next 12 years and, perhaps, beyond.

And that’s not all.

“There’s a lot less crying,” reports Jeanne Fridell, principal at Woodlawn School, one of eight elementaries in the Lawrence school district with full-day kindergarten. “We don’t have that anymore. It’s a lot less crying, and a lot more laughter.”

Yet while administrators, school board members and many parents agree that offering full-day kindergarten throughout the entire Lawrence school district would be a great idea, few — if any — see much chance of getting the job done anytime soon.

Welcome to the world of financial reality: The program now costs the district about $500,000, all of it financed through revenues restricted to be spent on helping so-called “at-risk” students because of their financial or other demographic characteristics.

Adding full-day kindergarten at the other seven elementary schools where half-day classes are offered would cost another $450,000 on teachers alone, plus another $200,000 or so for materials and furnishings.

That’s real money, at a time when the district doesn’t expect to receive any more money for the next academic year. The standing fear is that board members and administrators will be forced to endure another round of cuts when compiling their budgets, just as they did this past year when they eliminated jobs and cut programs to prevent closing schools while reducing expenses by $4.6 million.

Difficult balance

This upcoming budget season, administrators foresee a reduction in revenues that “easily could be another $3 million to $4 million,” said Frank Harwood, the district’s chief operations officer.

Any calls for adding full-day kindergarten services must be balanced against such expectations for reduced revenues, said Rick Doll, district superintendent. And that’s true even if there’s finally room in all elementary schools, as expected, once sixth-graders move up into new middle schools for next year.

“Preliminary figures show that (full-day kindergarten) produces some pretty promising results,” Doll said. “It looks like it’s working. We now have the room. Now it’s a matter of funding.”

He pauses.

“It doesn’t look promising,” he said.

But board members aren’t giving up hope.

As part of their ongoing redesign of the district’s schools — moving freshmen into high schools, turning junior highs into middle schools, and limiting elementaries to kindergarten through fifth grades — board members are pressing administrators to take fresh looks at all programs, to see which ones are the most effective and most efficient.

If full-day kindergarten ends up rating among the district’s best investments — by helping improve academic achievement long-term for students, especially among at-risk groups — then perhaps it could receive money previously channeled to other programs that might be deemed less effective.

Tuition time?

Or the district could move to charge some parents tuition for full-day kindergarten. Doll said that a “sliding scale” could be established, allowing students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches at all schools to receive full-day kindergarten for “free,” while other parents could choose to pay tuition to have their children attend such full-day classes.

That would be a switch from the current practice. Right now, only students in eight schools — Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney, Prairie Park, Schwegler and Woodlawn — have access to full-day kindergarten, because each of those schools has a relatively high number of students who receive free and reduced-price lunches. That means all students, regardless of economic standing, in those schools have access to full-day kindergarten.

But what if students who didn’t qualify for subsidized lunches were able to enroll in full-day kindergarten only if they paid tuition, on a sliding scale? Then the district could redirect some of those dollars — both received through tuition, and saved by reducing allocations — to other schools, where the same standards could be applied.

Then all 15 elementary schools would have full-day kindergarten, the thinking goes, with some families paying extra while others would not.

“That’s a political change,” Doll said. “It’s a political move, and we’d have to engage our communities and make sure everybody understands.”

Board members haven’t decided to move in that direction, although they intend to discuss the idea as legislators convene in Topeka and the district’s plans for next year take shape.

“There are a lot of people out there that still think that kindergarten is just learning to draw straight lines and color between the lines and whatever,” said Mary Loveland, who has spent 20 years on the Lawrence school board. “There’s a curriculum in there, things that need to be learned. And it’d sure be nice to have a whole day to do it — for every child.”

Comments

budwhysir 3 years, 3 months ago

So, the economic question is.... do we require ALL kids in kindergarten to attend full days of class, teaching them for an entire day, thus getting them ready for early release and late arrival days of high school????

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Stacy Napier 3 years, 3 months ago

Man I wish my kindergarten had been that hot looking. Wow

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Christina Hoffman 3 years, 3 months ago

Having half day for only half the schools in lawrence is stressfull for us parents who live in half day school zones but our children have the actual need to be in full day and can not recieve this option cause of where we live. Unless we transfer, which creates other problems. for example you dont find out till almost the first day of school if your transfer was approved, for my special needs child this is a problem she had already met with the "team" and got to know them at her home school so all are aware of each other. if she was transfered it would have been all new and the "team" would not have gotten a heads up. Which is never good, everyone should have plenty of notice when dealing with special needs children. We feel all day K should definatly be an option everywhere. I agree though we shouldnt have to pay extra until they district stops paying for extra activities like basketball and football, make them do bigger and better fund raisers.
For the side of the other parents who dont feel that their child is ready for all day, it should be your right to only have your child go half day, However all day should always be offered through out the district not just "at risk schools" . Just because i live in a nice neighbor hood and can afford to feed my children does not mean the district should take away my childs right have to the best education possible.

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Confrontation 3 years, 3 months ago

Wow. I hate to see some of you parents when your children reach college age. You'll be freaking out about letting them experience the world, because, surely, 18 is far too young to be an adult. Children are still children when they go to school. The real problem is that you want to baby them rather than letting them start to learn some sort of independence. These are the same children who develop social anxiety because mom is freaking out about everything.

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Scattered 3 years, 3 months ago

Chic, I so agree with you. As a mother of three, and grandmother of 2 (in Lawrence) it is my belief that all day kindergarten = all day babysitting service - for free! PARENTS are the ones who should be working with their little ones....just like my daughter is doing, like I did, like my mother did. I do realize that for many daycare is not an option, and my heart aches for those who must leave their children all day. BUT, as Chic as stated, the day-long classes should be optional for those who can and want to keep their child a child.

I have many friends who teach, and I hear terrible stories of those in all-day classes who cannot stay awake; the serious behavior problems. Five year olds often need assistance in their bathroom time - who is going to be there? Scary thought. I just imagine those little ones trying to carry a tray and eat a lunch amid all the commotion....

My four year old grandson lives in an all-day district, and he already has his plan for attending a half day school (he even knows how long it will take to drive there). I pray his wishes come true.

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walkthehawk 3 years, 3 months ago

I hope a half-day choice is preserved for those of us who don't feel that five year olds are best served by a full day in a classroom. I have no problem with a pay-for-K option--but please let it be an option--there are a number of children for whom this isn't a good idea, mine included.

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KU_cynic 3 years, 3 months ago

What is the potential cost of expanding kindergarten relative to the aggregate budget spent on non-academic activities -- especially sports but also administration?

I can't see how the school district should charge a dime for kindergarten "tuition" while it is paying for football and basketball coaches and bloated administration and such.

Our country is facing a sputnik-like moment in terms educational abilities of our kids and its effect on economic competiveness, and our spending priorities should reflect that.

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solsken66 3 years, 3 months ago

My children all attended half-day kindergarten without having learning delays. We help our children practice and do their homework. They also learn other important skills by watching us as their role models. Right now the economic situation does not allow for additional spending. Residents are already seeing increases on sales tax which is now tacked on utilities; property tax and mill levy hikes; food prices going up; and higher gas prices.

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Jeanne Cunningham 3 years, 3 months ago

“There’s a curriculum in there, things that need to be learned." This makes me so angry. That is what parents are for and what many of us did and do. Mandatory education is a good thing, but parents should NOT be forced to send their children to full day attendance until/unless they choose to do so. Let them be kids as long as possible.

For those who have no choice and/or for kids who have already been in all day daycare sorts of situations, fine. But, for those families where parents have been able OR made extra effort to be with their young children, the choice to ease those kids into the all day away from home should still remain.

Let them stay kids as long as possible.

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