Pilot all-day kindergarten proposed
All-day kindergarten may be offered in the Basehor-Linwood school district even sooner than expected.
When presenting the recent $39.9 million bond issue, which voters approved in October, district officials had said schools were in need of additional classroom space to accommodate current students, steadily increasing enrollment numbers and new concepts as well, such as all-day kindergarten.
Monday night, assistant superintendent David Howard shared with school board members the district's plans to implement such a program as early as the next school year.
"(Linwood Elementary School principal) Cindy Hebert and I had a conversation about Linwood Elementary possibly offering all-day kindergarten as a pilot for the district," Howard said. "I think all of you know the benefits of all-day kindergarten. There is a lot of research out there that supports it."
Several studies, including one in Early Childhood Research Quarterly, show that students who attend a full day of kindergarten performed better academically and socially and were better prepared for first grade than those who only attend half days.
If approved, the pilot will begin in fall 2008 at LES. It will run one full school year and be re-evaluated in early 2009 to judge its effectiveness. Howard said one of the reasons district officials chose LES was because it has the space to house the program.
"If the pilot proves successful, when would you anticipate the entire district offering all-day kindergarten?" President Randy Cunningham asked.
Since the bond issue was set up to accommodate such future programs, Howard said the district would be able to phase the program into the district's other two elementary schools as space is made available. He estimated the entire district could offer all-day kindergarten by the 2009-2010 school year.
The approved bond issue includes adding six classrooms to Glenwood Ridge Elementary School and building a new third through fifth grade school, allowing Basehor Elementary School to split into separate primary (kindergarten through second grade) and secondary (third through fifth grade) centers. The middle school will also move out of the current conjoined middle school and LES building and into a new separate building, allowing LES to spread out.
Participation in the program will not be mandatory, Howard said, even when it is offered districtwide because the state does not require children to attend school until the age of 7.
"We'd like to give parents the option as far as kindergarten," he said. "If they're able to do things with their kids at home in the afternoon, I think that's great, but some are working families and they aren't able to do that."
But, in his experience introducing all-day kindergarten in his previous district, Howard said, attendance starts out at about 60 percent because some parents feel the day is too long for their child. Then, it later increases to nearly 100 percent because parents see their children will benefit from special classes such as art, physical education and music that can be offered in the all-day program.
"After a while, parents realized the benefit of going all day because students got to do some of those special classes that you don't have time to do during a half day," he said.
Howard said the district would like to keep the pilot class size small and cap it between 20 and 24 students. For this reason, the district plans to adhere strictly to boundary lines.
"Obviously the people in the Linwood boundary area would be first," he said. "If there were only 17 kids and there were three more close that wanted to attend, we would have to look at that on an individual basis."
To fund the pilot program, the district will have to come up with an additional $15,000 to $20,000, or about half of the LES kindergarten teacher's salary, since it is currently a half-time position. Howard said the district plans to take that out of the at-risk fund. When the program spreads to the other district schools, other funding options will be necessary. Howard said the state has been discussing gradually increasing funding for all-day kindergarten and could phase it in over the next five years.
The all-day kindergarten pilot proposal is expected to appear on the school board agenda for approval in January.
"The exciting thing about what you're proposing is this is the first academic example of what the bond issue is allowing us to do for the community," board vice president Pat Jeannin said.
In action items Monday, the board:
¢ Approved, 7-0, baseball/softball expenditures not to exceed $119,590.11.
¢ Tabled, 7-0, Board Policy Chapter I: Instruction for final reading.
¢ Tabled, 7-0, Board Policy Chapter J: Student, Part I for first reading.
¢ Approved, 7-0, paperless board meetings.
¢ Approved, 7-0, district Effectiveness and Efficiency Review.
¢ Approved, 7-0, the retirement of Rod Herrs, Basehor-Linwood Middle School counselor, effective at the end of the 2007-2008 school year.
¢ Approved, 7-0, Resolution 42-157 to reactivate the municipal investment pool account.