Should Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal to allocate $40 million in the state budget to fund optional all-day, everyday kindergarten pass, Spring Lake Park District 16 School District would welcome the move.
“We’d like to be able to offer it to everyone who would want it,” said Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg in an interview.
“There’s many parents who want it, but there’s still parents that want the half-day (kindergarten).”
So far the district has been able to accommodate the parents of District 16 residents who have signed their students up for all-day K next year, he said.
Minnesota is one of 12 states in the nation which does not have all-day K funded by the state, according to Ronneberg.
The governor’s $40 million proposal, however, applies only to students on free and reduced lunch programs. The proposal is an option for all-day K and would not be mandatory for all kindergarten students.
The governor’s proposal, if passed, would go into effect in 2014.
If the state funds all-day K, District 16 will then have to make a decision of whether to offer all-day K as the only option or to offer both all-day and half-day K. A decision has not been made, Ronneberg said.
He personally leans toward letting parents have both options, he said.
The governor’s proposal is partially funded and would mean additional costs of about $300,000 to $450,000 for District 16, according to Ronneberg.
Funding would come from the district’s general fund or from reallocated funds, he said.
Both Ks now offered
District 16 now offers parents a choice for their children to attend all-day K or half-day K in all three of its elementary schools. Half-day K is offered free in the mornings or afternoons.
All-day K has been offered at the district since about 2001 for a fee. Cost of tuition for 2013-14 school year all-day K is $2,970.
The number of District 16 students enrolled in 2012-13 all-day K is 237.
This school year is the first time the district has offered all-day K tuition free to students on free and reduced lunch. Twenty-eight percent of the students enrolled are on free lunch and 5 percent are on reduced lunch for a total of 77 students attending school on all-day K scholarships, according to district officials.
Funding for students on free and reduced lunch comes from the district’s general fund.
In addition to the 237 students enrolled in all-day K this year, 248 students are enrolled in the half-day K program.
Ronneberg said all-day K results in a deeper learning experience for the child, citing a study by the CAREI Institute at the University of Minnesota.
The added instructional time (six hours a day as opposed to about three-and-a half hours) develops a greater level of soft skills – collaboration, problem solving and development of early critical thinking skills, he said.
Meeting goals earlier
Lindsay Johnson is the continuous improvement coach at Northpoint Elementary School. She has taught six years, four of those years in all-day K.
“Students in full-day kindergarten tend to meet and/or exceed grade level expectations sooner,” she said. “Half-day kindergartners will still meet them by the end of the year. It’s just that full-day students tend to meet them earlier.”
Students in all-day K get to experience the routine of being in school for six hours a day, making their transition into first-grade easier, she said.
Also, they receive 120 minutes a day of reading and writing instruction, while half-day students receive 90 minutes of instruction a day.
However, some parents don’t think their child is socially ready to attend school for six hours. They may tire quickly, for example.
“We tell them as parents, they know whether they’re ready,” Johnson said.
When first-grade teachers are asked if they notice a difference between their students who came from half-day and all-day K, they say they see no difference, says Mounds View teacher Marsha Andrusko, who has taught both all-day and half-day K.
“All-day has the gift of time. That’s the biggest difference,” said Andrusko a resident of Blaine, whose three children attend District 16.
“The biggest difference is we’re expected to teach more. It’s a lot more to get in a half-day program,” she said.
Andrusko declined to say whether students in all-day K scored higher in tests than half-day students.
What would passage by the state of all-day K funding mean to District 16?
More teachers would be needed, Ronneberg said.
The district now has about 15 kindergarten teachers. The change would call for the hiring of about five more teachers.
More space would be needed. But District 16 is positioned to accommodate an all-day K program for all students. The district after a lengthy demographic study has anticipated a spike in enrollment and starting at the end of this school year is undergoing facilities expansions that will add 10 classroom spaces to Park Terrace and six to Northpoint.
The numbers of kindergarten students enrolled so far for next school year are 286 in all-day K and 148 in half-day K, but that number will change as students move in and out of the district through the start of school next fall.
District 16 anticipates the kindergarten enrollment next year to be somewhere between 450-475, according to district officials.
To see the ECM Editorial Board’s editorial on ADED K, click here.
Elyse Kaner is at firstname.lastname@example.org