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District begins planning for all-day K

Many School District 833 parents might wish that free all-day kindergarten would start this fall, but it won't start until the fall of 2014.

South Washington County School Board members got an update on the planning process during a recent retreat.

This fall, 65 percent of eligible children will be in all-day kindergarten classes that are offered free at Pullman and Pine Hill elementary schools because of their high percentage of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches, a federal definition of poverty.

All-day kindergarten, with parents paying $15 for half the day, was first offered at Royal Oaks in 1990 and managed by Community Education.

Enrollment, expected to be 1,550 kindergarteners districtwide in 2014, could increase, said Dave Bernhardson, assistant superintendent for elementary education, because a number of parents currently are choosing to put their kindergartners in all-day classes outside the district.

Currently, the district gets state aid for half-day students, but while they will receive more aid next year for full-day students, the amount of state funding given to districts for half-day kindergarten students will decrease slightly.

All-day kindergarten will not be required in the law passed by the Minnesota Legislature this year. Those districts choosing to offer all-day classes must allow parents who prefer half-day to pick up their students at noon without their children being considered truant, according to Bernhardson.

There will be curriculum changes so core subjects will be taught in the mornings, he said.

Planning, which will occur in September, October and November, will include classroom space, the number of teachers and specialists needed, transportation, lunch programs, communication with parents and the enrollment process, Bernhardson said.

Consideration of the possible effects on Kids Club, a before- and after-school program, will also be discussed.

The district also offers free half-day classes to prepare 4-year-olds for kindergarten at Pine Hill, Pullman and Crestview elementary schools. Pre-kindergarten is also offered at the remaining schools for a fee.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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