Major makeover set for South Kitsap School District’s kindergarten program

South Kitsap School District parents soon might not face a decision on whether they want their kindergartners in the half-day morning or afternoon session.

Superintendent Michelle Reid said last week that she wants to implement all-day kindergarten throughout SKSD by the 2016-17 school year.

Reid will use a three-year phase-in plan to implement the program. When school begins in September, the district will implement all-day kindergarten at SKSD’s five Title I elementary schools: Burley-Glenwood, East Port Orchard, Olalla, Orchard Heights and Sidney Glen. Schools where at least 40 percent of the students are eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch receive Title I designation.

The program then will expand by two programs in 2015-16 with the remaining three adding all-day kindergarten programs the following school year.

Reid said finances are the impetus for a gradual pace.

She said the all-day kindergarten program, which will require the district to hire 7.5 teachers, will cost $536,000 during the upcoming school year. Reid said she expects about half of that cost to be covered by the Learning Assistance Program, Title I funds and other state grants.

She also believes the program could have a positive impact on other areas of the district’s budget.

“All-day kindergarten has really shown to decrease referrals to special education,” Reid said. “Right now, we’re spending a lot of money out of our general fund to support special education because we’re over the state threshold of 12.7 percent. If this program can help children catch up and gain the skills they need to be successful … it’s a great investment that we won’t be paying out somewhere else in the system.”

Reid outlined other reasons why she feels the district needs all-day kindergarten across the board. She said the implementation of Common Core State Standards, which are part of a multi-state effort to develop common educational goals in addition to assessments that can be utilized to compare schools and students from around the country, has resulted in the continuous expansion of the kindergarten curriculum. Despite that, instructional time for kindergartners in SKSD has remained at 2 hours, 40 minutes.

“As a district, we need to move forward to meet those targets for our children,” Reid said.

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

In addition, Reid is concerned about declining enrollment numbers over the last several years. Reid noted that there are about 61 kindergarten students living within SKSD boundaries that opt to attend school in other districts. During the 2012-13 school year, Reid said there were about 50 kindergartners going elsewhere.

Reid suspects that is because several neighboring school districts already offer all-day kindergarten at no charge, some parents elect to send their students to those schools. As those students develop friendships at their new schools, she said, they often choose to remain there. The state uses a 10-month enrollment average — September to June — to calculate funding for schools. Reid said the state provides $5,524 per full-time equivalent (FTE) student.

“We’re hoping that a start will help cause us not to lose so many kids,” Reid said. “A lot of families who move here — or live here — come in and ask us if we have all-day kindergarten. When they realize we don’t, they’re moving their kids to surrounding districts.”

That means the loss of 61 students costs SKSD approximately $337,000 — kindergartners are funded at .5 FTE by the state. For the remaining 12 years those students attend school, the district could lose more than $4.2 million.

Reid said the district’s current all-day kindergarten program, which was introduced in 2010 and is tuition-based, has not been able to change that trend. SKSD implemented all-day at Olalla and then expanded in 2011 to Manchester.

Tuition for those programs were set at $3,500 per — $1,750 for students who qualified for free- and reduced-price lunch — which then-SKSD deputy superintendent Kurt Wagner said made the program “cost neutral” for the district.

Because Olalla is among SKSD’s Title I schools, its current curriculum will roll over into the district’s new program during the upcoming school year. That means parents no longer will pay tuition for all-day kindergarten at that school.

While Manchester is not among SKSD’s Title I schools, Reid said it will keep its one all-day kindergarten class in 2014-15. She said district’s other non-Title I elementary schools — Hidden Creek, Mullenix Ridge, South Colby and Sunnyslope — also will offer tuition-based all-day kindergarten programs during the upcoming school year. She said tuition will be set at $200 per month during the school year with students who are eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch at $100 per month.

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