By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Although members of the Lester Prairie School Board expressed support for the a proposal to offer all-day, every day kindergarten, they were divided over the timing of the decision.
During last Monday’s meeting, the board approved moving forward with offering all-day kindergarten starting with the 2012-13 school year, on a 3-2 vote, with Board Chair Bob Carlson and board members Gregg Machemehl and Karla Heigl in favor, and board members Joe Miller and Matt Klitzke opposed. Board Member Rollie Radtke was not present.
Miller said that he fully supports the idea of all day kindergarten, but noted the last time the issue was brought up, the board heard “very vocal” opposition from residents.
He suggested tabling the issue until the board’s next meeting to allow time for residents to comment.
Miller noted he was “strongly in favor” of the proposal, but said the board should wait until its March meeting to make a decision.
Heigl said a survey has been sent to parents of incoming kindergarten students, asking for preference regarding half-day or all-day kindergarten, and the community is already aware it was being discussed.
Superintendent Mike McNulty and Elementary Principal Pam Lukens both expressed support for the proposal.
McNulty said focusing on the early years contributes to students’ future success.
Lukens said of the parents who responded to the survey, 73 percent were in favor of all day kindergarten, 23 percent said they preferred half-day kindergarten, and 3 percent did not have a preference.
The district will still offer half-day kindergarten as an option, but parents who choose that option will have to pick up their students from school.
According to McNulty, eliminating mid-day busing will save the district $18,000 per year, which will help to pay for an additional staff member, which will be needed for all-day kindergarten.
McNulty said the district would also receive funding from a state program to promote literacy by third grade.
Lukens said approving the all-day option last Monday would be helpful, because other schools are already announcing their kindergarten roundups, and since the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School District recently approved all-day kindergarten, Lester Prairie would have been the only district in the area that did not offer an all-day kindergarten option.
“It will be more difficult if we wait,” Lukens said, prior to the vote.
McNulty said space for the all-day option will not be an issue.
Lukens said that under the new program, basic academics will be covered in the morning, and supplemental material, including physical education and music, will be covered in the afternoon.