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School district plans to operate a second all-day kindergarten

A challenging economy has resulted in several budget cuts in the South Kitsap School District.

One area that has not been impact is the all-day kindergarten program.

As long as the district is able to get 18 to 20 kindergarteners registered for the program, SKSD deputy superintendent Kurt Wagner said there will be a class for them at Manchester Elementary School.

It will be the district’s second full-day kindergarten class. The other started last fall at Olalla Elementary School.

Wagner said SKSD was able to add a second all-day kindergarten based on demand. The state only funds half-day kindergarten education. To close that gap, the district set tuition at $3,500 per year to pay for additional instruction, which Wagner said makes the program “cost-neutral.”

That amount has increased from $3,000 last year. Wagner said that is because there were more kindergarteners who qualified for free- and reduced-price lunch that enrolled in the program than anticipated. Because parents of those students pay $1,750, he said it created a shortfall.

One aspect that did not lag was demand. Once the program at Olalla began, Manchester principal A.J. Callan said he frequently was on the phone with SKSD officials about bringing all-day kindergarten to Manchester. Callan said placing the program at his school made sense because of its distance from Olalla, available space at Manchester and the presence of veteran teacher Sharon Vetter, who will run the all-day kindergarten class there.

Advocates say that children who enroll in all-day kindergarten programs perform better academically and socially.

“I look forward to bringing more to them with art, science and social studies,” Vetter said. “I look forward to bring them a broader, well-rounded first-year experience.”

Wagner said students within SKSD boundaries and outside are eligible to enroll at either Manchester or Olalla. But transportation only is available to those who enroll in the program within the boundaries of the schools.

He said parents also have the option of keeping their students at those schools after they finish kindergarten. In addition, Wagner said siblings of all-day kindergarten students are eligible to enroll at those schools.

As of last month, 13 students were enrolled in the program at Manchester. Wagner said there must be enough students in both the all-day and half-day programs at both schools or the former will be canceled. He said that requires 18 to 20 students in the all-day program.

Callan said “getting the word out” about the program is the most difficult challenge at first.

Depending on demand, Wagner said the district might look into adding another section of all-day kindergarten for the 2012-13 school year.

“It just depends on the community need and responsiveness,” he said. “We would love it.”

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