District 11 approves free all day every day kindergarten

by Sue Austreng
Staff Writer

Anoka-Hennepin School Board members Jan. 23 unanimously approved the expansion of free all day every day kindergarten in the school district.

The expansion means 11 of Anoka-Hennepin’s 24 elementary schools will offer the extended kindergarten program at no cost to parents.

The expansion does, however, carry a cost of nearly $1.5 million to the school district.

“Four District 11 schools currently have all day every day kindergarten that is funded through desegregation dollars. Literacy financial aid money allows for the expansion,” said Dr. Mary Wolverton, associate superintendent of elementary schools.

Expanding programs for kindergarten and preschool are part of District 11’s goal to ensure that all students are proficient in literacy and math by grade three.

Expanded all day every day kindergarten also reduces transportation costs by some $90,000. Currently kindergarten students are transported midday, then buses return to schools later to transport the older students home at school day’s end.

District 11’s high poverty schools (Title One schools) were given first priority for free all day every day kindergarten. Building capacity was also taken into consideration before identifying schools that could accommodate all day every day kindergarten. Schools with a high population of special needs students were also evaluated for the expansion.

When all was said and done, research conducted and conclusions drawn, schools now able to add free all day every day kindergarten include Adams, Dayton, Evergreen Park, Hamilton, Hoover, Lincoln, Mississippi, Monroe, Rum River, Wilson and University Avenue elementary schools.

Franklin, Eisenhower and Morris Bye elementary schools were not included in the expansion proposal since those buildings currently do not have the facility capacity to expand.

However, as enrollments change, Wolverton said, staff will conduct annual reviews to determine the feasibility of adding all day every day kindergarten without changing attendance boundaries for those schools.

Madison Elementary School, Wolverton said, is not a Title One school, has no capacity to expand and so was not included in the expansion.

The expanded all day every day kindergarten means District 11 will have roughly triple the number of students in that program next fall and will need to add 15.5 FTE (full time equivalent staff) at a cost of approximately $1.25 million.

Describing rationale for expansion of all day every day kindergarten and kindergarten readiness, Wolverton quoted a report provided by the Anne E. Casey Foundation.

The report, “Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters,” states, “A large body of research supports the critical relationship between early childhood and kindergarten programming and reading proficiency by the end of third grade. Studies show that children who attend high quality pre-kindergarten programs are ‘less likely to be held back a grade, less likely to need special education, and more likely to graduate high school.’ The National Research Council asserts that ‘academic success, as defined by high school graduation, can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by knowing someone’s reading skill at the end of third grade.’”

District officials are also working with the community’s early childhood education programs to help increase kindergarten readiness, Wolverton said.

“The rigor of what we need to have happen in kindergarten has changed dramatically,” she said.

Sue Austreng is at [email protected]

  • Dyan Brainard

    What about Sandcreek Elementary ? As a parent I feel my child needs to go to all day kindergarten. Sandcreek is our school. Where can she be open enrolled in then and will have to be buses. Help

    • Dyan Brainard

      Sandcreek has every day kindergarten now- so in the fall of 2012 I shouldn’t have to pay due to the other schools are now FREE.

  • Lisa

    I am wondering why the district kept this vote/information a secret from the parents and how do they justify that some people still have to pay while others are getting a free ride? That 1.5 million is coming at a cost to taxpayers. Also, I don’t believe that there is a $90,000 savings in transportation cost. Currently, the district offers ALL DAY EVERY OTHER DAY or ALL DAY EVERY DAY FOR A FEE. Per the website: “The Anoka-Hennepin School District offers several choices of kindergarten programs. The all-day, every other day kindergarten program is available to everyone at no cost. Other programs, such as all-day, every day kindergarten, are offered for a fee….” There is no longer any 1/2 day kindergarten programs, so there is NO MIDDAY transportation savings. Some where the numbers are not correct. If this district wants to offer all day every day, either everyone should pay or everyone should be free. You can’t have it both ways.

  • joe

    Free? How do they figure. No wonder our kids are growing up not knowing how to make change. The people in charge of teaching them cannot do it.

  • Cyndi

    I’m extremely excited for this change and would like to say – THANK YOU! Currently we bring our children to school outside of our district. With this change, it’ll cut cost for our family, when times are tough. Next year we would not only have to pay for full-time kindergarten but also a $500 bus fee on top of a heavy daycare fee. I don’t like my taxes raised, but I feel this is money is well spent. Children have to learn how to read at a much younger age and I feel confident that this change will make a difference. Our children will now go within their district! I can’t thank you enough!