Archive for Thursday, November 15, 2007

Kindergarten to go all day

Board OKs full-day classes beginning in fall 2008

November 15, 2007

Beginning next school year, the Lansing School District will have full-day kindergarten classes.

Although the state will not provide funding for full-day classes, Lansing School Board members agreed the benefit to the students was top priority.

"We need the money, but we're putting the kids first and making cuts elsewhere to provide this," said Superintendent Randal Bagby.

Bagby estimated the cost for full-day kindergarten to be around $100,000. This money will come from the new facility-weighting portion of the budget that allows a district to increase the full-time equivalent count for state funding for two years.

For example, if the district had 100 kindergartners, they would currently each be weighted .50 FTE. Because of the new facility, the district will be able to count them as .75 FTE. Bagby said that should more than cover the cost of the full-time program for the first two year with other minor tweaks in the budget.

He said he didn't want to give the state the impression that the money isn't needed just because the district was choosing to provide all-day kindergarten without state support. He said he hopes that eventually the state will begin providing the necessary funding for full-day kindergarten. If they don't after the initial two years, Bagby said he will just have to make sure he plans for it in future budgets.

He said he was confident that the Lansing community would support and welcome the change.

Through conversations with Lansing Elementary principal Tim Newton, Bagby said he estimate that about 40 kindergarten students in the Lansing area chose to go to surrounding schools that provide full-day classes such as the Leavenworth, Fort Leavenworth and Basehor-Linwood districts. Area private schools and the Leavenworth School District offer all-day kindergarten.

Newton backed up the theory, saying LES always experiences a large increase from kindergarten to first grade enrollment because the students that left for a full-day program usually return a year later for first grade.

While Bagby admitted that there was no clear quantifiable research that indicates students perform better academically with a full-day program, he said the general consensus is the programs are beneficial.

Because teachers don't want to bombard the young students with a day full of academics, Bagby said all-day kindergarten in Lansing would be a mixture including social skill training. He said research indicates students who show positive social skills are usually the strongest students.

There may still be some parents unsure about the benefits or unwilling to let go of that time with their children, so Newton said the school would be willing to work with them. The students whose parents elected for them not to take advantage of the full-day program would be released as usual in the afternoon, after the academic portion of the day was finished.

Newton said he didn't anticipate many parents to opt out of the full-day program but would accommodate those that did. The first year will be a transition, he said, and he is certain that during the second year more parents would warm up to the idea.

Bagby said when planning for the construction of the new elementary school, the district designed the kindergarten classrooms in a way that would be conducive for a full-day program. The next process will be hiring three new teachers, which Bagby said he would like to do soon so they could be involved in the planning process.

In other business Tuesday, the board:

¢ Unanimously voted to allow Bagby to begin negotiating with the city regarding a new school resource officer. Bagby has been in talks with Police Chief Steve Wayman and City Administrator Mike Smith. He said both were supportive of the idea but it's time to talk in real money figures.

Bagby first presented the idea to the school board members at their annual retreat. School safety dominated the discussion and ranged from what to do in case of a terrorist threat to potentially hiring a school resource officer.

"The discussion at the board retreat strengthened my resolve to support this," Board President Shelly Gowdy said of the resource officer. "Not just for reasons of terrorists but for getting our students in a completely different mindset about police and other authority figures."

Bagby agreed that he hoped by having a prominent police figure at the schools, students would get used to law enforcement. The officer would split time between the middle and high schools. Bagby said it would be an asset to have someone who was familiar with the community to deal with students on a personal and individual level.

¢ Unanimously approved a resolution to refinance the district's bond issue to ultimately save taxpayers about $197,000. Bagby said he was looking long term at how the savings could affect the district's future.

"The amount we save over the life of the bonds means future boards may not have to increase the mill levy as much," he said.

¢ Accepted three donations for Susy Carpenter's third-grade class. The first donation was for $20 from the City of Lansing for the People's Choice Award in the Scarecrow Contest. The second was for $25 from the City of Lansing for the 1st Place Award in the Scarecrow Contest.

The third donation was anonymous. Someone dropped off $100 in cash with a note that said for a "job well done."


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.