Pilot all-day kindergarten class approved
Money won't be the deciding factor in determining which 18 students will be part of a pilot all-day kindergarten class - luck will be.
That decision was made at Monday's Baldwin School Board meeting. Board Member Scott Lauridsen had a large part in helping the board make a unanimous vote on the issue.
"The only thing I was concerned about was making it an equitable opportunity for the entire district," Lauridsen said. "I think we have a mechanism to go do that."
Board Member Ande Parks, who served on the district's all-day kindergarten committee, was pleased after the meeting to take the next step in making this pilot class a reality.
"I really feel good about what we accomplished tonight with making some financial allowance for parents who are not going to be able to afford that program, but want the same opportunity in the lottery to take advantage of it that every other parent will have," Parks said.
The school board approved the all-day kindergarten class and the process to select the 18 students for the pilot class. Supt. Paul Dorathy brought that recommendation to the meeting Monday.
Parents that apply for their children to be selected for the class will be put into a lottery-type drawing. The first 18 applicants chosen will be in the class and the next 18 will be alternates.
"Other than a drawing, there is no other way that is more fair for everybody that wants an opportunity at it," Dorathy said. "Yes, your name will be drawn out of a hat, but that's about the best way we can do it when we only have 18 spots for those kids. That's probably the best we can do."
The original proposal, which was worked on by Deb Ehling-Gwin (Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center), Gus Wegner (Marion Springs Elementary School) and Dorathy raised a few concerns from board members.
Concerns that were brought up centered on the cost and giving everyone an equal opportunity to be in the pilot class. Dorathy reported the cost at $12 per day per student, which would cost a parent $120 for August and roughly $240 for each additional month. That price would cover the expense of the program.
Since current kindergarten teachers are half-day employees, the district would only have to pay the additional half-day cost. The total cost for the teacher's salary, supplies and other expenses will be around $36,000.
"That would cover the half-time teacher, all of the supplies, materials and the expenses for field trips and other things that they might want to do," Dorathy said. "It covers all of those expenses. It gets us to the point to where there is no expense to the district."
That is when Lauridsen and Board Member Ruth Barkley expressed concern about how the cost could be too much for some families that want their child in the program.
"I don't think I can support this unless there is a mechanism to help those who can't pay for this," Lauridsen said. "I can't support any district program like that. If the district is truly getting value out of it, then the district should pay for part of it. It's an investment that the district should be prepared for. I want to offer everyone the same opportunity."
Lauridsen wanted every family interested in the class to have an equal opportunity to enroll, even if that meant the district would cover the cost for some families. Those would be the ones that apply and are accepted into the free or reduced meals program.
Dorathy said about 18 percent of students in the district are on free or reduced meals. Although that would only be three students out of the 18 in the pilot class, Lauridsen said the district would pay for everyone if a worst-case scenario were to happen.
"The risk is that we pick all 18 of the kids that need financial help and have to pay $2,000 for all 18 students," Lauridsen said during the meeting.
After the meeting, he reiterated his point.
"There is some risk that the district will have to handle some cost, but the value for the district is learning how to function all-day kindergarten," he said. "I'm OK with the district funding some of that learning. I think that's appropriate."
The board agreed to approve pilot class and pay for the students that are accepted into the free or reduced meals program. Dorathy was happy with the approval, especially with the lottery-type drawing for students.
"I would be more comfortable doing that and taking the risk, than saying we only take two of those kids," he said. "Then we have a drawing to see who gets in. When I think of first-come, first-serve, I think of people camping out to sign up. A lottery is the fairest way to do this."
The applications for the all-day kindergarten class are available May 1 at any of the four elementary schools in the district. The applications must be returned to the BESPC by 4 p.m. May 16. The lottery drawing for the 18 students and 18 alternates will be done May 19.
"I am happy to move forward and I'm happy that all the discussions we've had about this for the past several months have finally netted us some result," Parks said. "We're not going to help every kid that needs help with this pilot program, but we're going to help some kids and we're going to help ourselves do a better job when all-day is a reality for the whole state."
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