Herald JournalHerald Journal, Feb. 14, 2005

School may lower price tag for all-day, every-day kindergarten

By Jenni Sebora
Staff Writer

It looks as if the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school district will offer two kindergarten options next year, with a more cost-friendly pricetag being passed to parents for the full day option, due to some creative budgeting.

At last Monday’s school board meeting, Elementary Principal Becky Gerdes and kindergarten teacher Karen Ready recommended that the district offer one section of half-day, everyday kindergarten, one section of full-day, everyday kindergarten at a cost of $1,293 per student, per year for parents who choose the full-day option.

The board did not officially approve the idea, but will likely take up the issue at its next meeting.

The fee was calculated by totaling the cost of a half-time teacher ($22,500), paraprofessional time ($1,686) and the cost of overhead ($1,693.02); dividing that total by 20 students.

Previously, the amount was quoted at $2,876 per student, per year.

The lower amount was achieved by rearranging the district budget, with kindergarten teachers offering to share equipment and do other things in order for the district to absorb the cost, commented Supt. George Ladd after the meeting. “There was no cost to the board,” he commented.

The elementary teachers are committed to offering full day and came up alternative cost measures, he said.

Gerdes also noted that the cost of $1,293 would be lower than the average hourly cost of day care, which is between $2.50 and $3.65 per hour, per child.

The issue of whether more families will be interested in the full-day option due to the decrease in the fee was a point of discussion the board questioned.

The duo also shared with the board the results of a parent survey regarding kindergarten options, including half-day, everyday and all-day everyday kindergarten.

Ninety-nine surveys were mailed out, and 84 surveys were returned – an 84.8 percent return rate.

Survey results indicated that 23 families would like full-day, everyday kindergarten. The survey noted that a couple of families will go elsewhere if HLWW does not offer full-day, everyday kindergarten.

At this time, Ladd and Gerdes believe that the total kindergarten enrollment for next year will be around 60 students.

Gerdes and Ready reviewed research that indicates both half-day and all-day, everyday kindergarten options are appropriate for 5-year-olds. The choice of either depends on the needs of the child and the family.

All-day programs are designed for those children who can benefit from a full day in a structured learning environment. All-day programming is not intended to accelerate students, but rather to provide a climate for learning, it was noted.

Some children will benefit from an all-day program, but others may not be ready for that option, Gerdes said. Gerdes further noted that families may have arrangements for the other half of the day that are equally beneficial.

An alternating day, such as full-day, every other day, is not as appropriate because it is not consistent for children, Ready said.

“We need to see the children each day, every day,” Ready said.

The survey also indicated that of the 23 families, 16 families cannot afford the price of $2,876 per student, per year.

The other seven families stated that they could afford that price, but that it is still too expensive.

Gerdes made a closing statement that the HLWW school district needs to offer choices to parents in education similar to choices given in every other aspect of daily life.

“We believe it is important to offer a variety of options for our families to meet the different needs of our students and their families, and to keep them in the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school district,” Gerdes said.

Presently Gerdes and the HLWW kindergarten teachers are recommending a class size of 20, with a maximum of 23 students.

Ready noted that it is difficult to say what a good class size is because so much is dependent on student personalities and needs. However, she felt that up to 23 students would be an appropriate class size.

If more than 20 to 23 families are interested, the option of a lottery was also discussed as well as the option of having two full-day, everyday classrooms, if interest is shown.

Superintendent George Ladd noted that to hire another half-time kindergarten would not affect the budget, and there is space available to have three kindergarten classrooms.

Future decisions, including the location of the kindergarten classrooms, will be made based on results of the upcoming kindergarten registrations in March at Winsted and Waverly Elementary Schools.

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