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District 26 to continue looking at full-day kindergarten

District 26 administrators plan to look at building, operating costs

Published: Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 9:59 p.m. CDT

CARY – District 26 is looking into the feasibility of offering full-day kindergarten for all students.

Currently the district has limited full-day kindergarten, which is comprised of a combination of students with special needs who are mixed with “typically developing peers” chosen by a lottery system. The program is at Three Oaks Elementary School.

The district also offers half-day kindergarten for other students.

Without giving a specific timeline, district administrators plan to look at the possible costs of re-opening a building along with the costs of operating it for an early childhood center.

The district has conducted a survey into the possibility of full-day kindergarten.

Kindergarten and first-grade teachers and parents who registered students for kindergarten during the 2014-15 school year in the district were surveyed. The district found that there was overwhelming support for a full-day kindergarten program.

The district estimates there would be $181,600 in staffing and material costs to have full-day kindergarten for every student.

District administrators estimate they would need at least three additional classrooms for a full-day program to be offered to all students.

However, based on enrollment projections for the next five years, the district would not have the capacity, within the district’s operating buildings, for full-day kindergarten until 2016-17. Under that scenario however, students who live in the Deer Path attendance area would not be able to attend their home school for kindergarten.

“My own bias certainly is to support full-day kindergarten, but I think within our current building constraints right now, it’s not feasible for next year,” said Jennifer Thomas, director of special services.

However the district will begin looking at what are the possible capital expenditures for re-opening Oak Knoll and the operational costs, such as the associated heating and electricity costs.

Board member Kevin Carrick has been an advocate for opening an early childhood center for kindergarten and early childhood programs at Oak Knoll. The school was last used by Trinity Oaks Christian Academy until it moved in 2012 to Prairie Hill School.

He said he would like to see an analysis of operating the building.

“Trinity Oaks has not been out of it for that long,” Carrick said. “I don’t imagine there’s any large issues with the building.”

Having an early childhood center, as opposed to adding onto schools, allows the district to be more efficient with staffing. Early childhood students share a lot of services such as speech and occupational therapy, said Superintendent Brian Coleman.

Having all the same staff in the same building would allow for collaboration and professional development, Coleman said.

The district also will need to look at its fee structure for kindergarten students.

School board President Jason Larry said he likes the idea of full-day kindergarten, but it should not be on the top of the priority list.

“I just think though, in a list of priorities that this board has had .... the last four years, restoring specials and class sizes we need to reduce, opening a building right now and adding full day kindergarten, should not be one of them,” Larry said. “It doesn’t feel right, to open a building, spend more money, offer full day kindergarten for everybody, when we still need to restore specials.”

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