By the start of next school year, full-day kindergarten could be available at all elementary schools in the Lawrence school district.
On Monday night, the Lawrence school board will be asked to extend the full-day kindergarten program to the remaining four schools who don’t have it: Sunset Hill, Deerfield, Quail Run and Langston Hughes.
The district’s chief academic officer, Kim Bodensteiner, said that for years full-day kindergarten has been a common request among parents and faculty.
“We’ve heard consistently from the community and elementary staff that (full-day kindergarten) is a very important thing and they would like to see it as part of the school programs offered throughout Lawrence,” Bodensteiner said.
To bring full-day kindergarten programs to the four schools would cost the district an extra $527,000, most of which would go toward teachers’ salaries. The increase would be covered through state funding for at-risk students, which among other things can be used toward full-day kindergarten. An increasing number of students who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program have boosted the amount of at-risk dollars the district receives.
The district also anticipates enrollment to go up once full-day kindergarten is added to the schools. Now, in the school boundaries where full-day kindergarten isn’t offered, some parents enroll their child in full-day kindergarten at private schools, Bodensteiner said.
As of now, Bodensteiner expects eight more teachers will be needed to run the full-day kindergarten programs at the four schools.
In Kansas, 85 percent of school districts have full-day kindergarten for all students. And just seven districts, including Lawrence, have programs in only some of their schools.
The first full-day kindergarten program in the Lawrence district opened at New York School in 1988 as a pilot program. Over the next several years, six more schools were added. In 2001, budget cuts forced the district to eliminate the program.
In 2007, the program was renewed and provided in the eight schools with the highest at-risk populations. With part of the money saved from closing Wakarusa School, the district expanded its full-day kindergarten program into Broken Arrow and Sunflower at the start of the 2011-2012 school year.
If the board decides to expand the full-day kindergarten program, Bodensteiner said, the district would continue to provide the option for parents to send their child to just a half day of kindergarten. The policy is now in place, but Bodensteiner said half-day is opted by only one or two families per school a year and many times the students transition into full-day kindergarten.
• Also on Monday night, the Lawrence school board will look at increasing staffing so the district’s class-size ratio at elementary and middle schools can be reduced by one student. The change is expected to result in 21 new teachers, which would cost about $1.1 million. Along with improving class sizes, the administration is asking that the board rehire a director of instruction, a position that had been eliminated during previous budget cuts.