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|Paynesville Press - January 30, 2002|
All-day kindergarten to be explored
Changing kindergarten from half-days, everyday to full days, every other day was so unpopular last year that it finished dead last in the school board members' budget cut rankings. Put another way, keeping everyday kindergarten was the top priority on the cut list a year ago.|
The fight to continue offering kindergarten on an everyday basis started again on Monday night, with a sizable portion of the 50-person crowd at the special school board meeting seemingly there in support of kindergarten.
Among the proposed cuts, kindergarten faces two cuts: reducing sections from five to four (a savings of $25,000 for a half-teacher cut) and eliminating the noon busing that makes half-day, everyday kindergarten possible (a transportation savings of $27,000).
Board members Mark Dingmann and Tami Stanger proposed keeping kindergarten everyday and extending it to a full day at the special school board meeting on Monday. This would save $27,000 in transportation, but instead of saving half a teacher's salary the district would add a half. That is, instead of reducing kindergarten teachers from 2.5 to 2.0, switching to all-day kindergarten would require raising the number of teachers to 3.0, which would cost the district $25,000.
Kindergarten teacher Colleen Pelton said the kindergarten staff suggested all-day, everyday kindergarten themselves, despite a resulting increase in class sizes due to only having three sections. "We'd rather have (the students) all-day, everyday at 25 (students per class) than every other day at 17 (students per class)," she explained.
For many years, Paynesville had all-day, every-other-day kindergarten and then switched to half-day, everyday kindergarten, which provides more consistency and a better learning environment, according to Stanger. "It's been proven," she said. "(All-day, every-other-day kindergarten) is not the best, so why would we want to go back to it?"
Stanger also told the board that she had been told by at least five parents that they will take their kids from the district if a switch to every-other-day kindergarten is made.
"If we lose (students) in kindergarten," added Dingmann, "we've lost them."
Elementary principal Todd Burlingame said he'd love to have all-day, everyday kindergarten but the problem is paying for the extra half teacher.
A switch to all-day, everyday kindergarten might have some financial benefits. By having kindergarten students eat lunch, their parents might be more inclined to sign up for free or reduced-price lunches. The district receives compensatory revenue dollars based on its number of students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunches.
Also, proponents suggested that special needs in the kindergarten class might need less attention from the special education department if the consistency of everyday kindergarten were offered.
The board also discussed charging to recover part of the cost, which other districts have done, including St. Cloud where parents pay $120 per month to enroll students everyday. At this rate, even 40 students opting for everyday could pay for the extra half teacher.
Charging, though, poses another problem, as the district can not charge for its basic curriculum and some students' families would not be able to pay a fee. (Paying the fee works really well, it was noted, for families that would rely on daycare on the days when their child wasn't in kindergarten anyway.)
Because some families would not pay to have everyday kindergarten, the district would have to offer its basic curriculum on an every-other-day basis and use the additional days for enhancement.
On Monday night, the school board directed the administration to study this alternative and try to put together a package that makes sense financially.
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