by Sue Austreng
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 firstname.lastname@example.org