School Board OKs choice of kindergarten programs

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— Tasked with choosing between half-day and full-day kindergarten, the Moffat County School Board unanimously agreed Thursday to offer both options.

The board had considered implementing full-day kindergarten, but during its meeting Thursday night, several board members and parents expressed concerns about having just one choice.

Jeremy Snow, a parent of a preschool-age child, said half-day kindergarten allowed his children to learn, while not becoming tired from a full day of school

"After three or four hours, they're exhausted," Snow said. "I have four children, and the youngest will be in kindergarten. All of my other children have been in half-day kindergarten."

The choice between half-day and full-day kindergarten will be evaluated at the same time next year.

"I think we do need to offer a choice for the upcoming year," said Andrea Camp, school board member. "I feel we've never asked our community for so much - the boundaries changed, then changed again. We should leave the option open for at least a year."

The board also unanimously agreed the programs would be entirely funded by stimulus money.

Pete Bergmann, School District superintendent, said adding full-day kindergarten would cost about $200,000 per year, and the stimulus funds would cover the first two years of the program.

"With the stimulus money, they were looking for districts to fund new programming," he said. "We have $550,000 we have to spend on new programs, then in two years we will have to figure out where the funding will come from."

Bergmann said Colorado puts an emphasis on early education programs, and the state could potentially help the district with some of the costs of the program.

Being able to have a half-day program will depend on the number of students enrolled in the class, said School Board member Trish Snyder.

"Even if 85 or 90 percent of parents want full-day, we have to honor the other parents wishes," Snyder said. "I don't think there should be any tuition, but the numbers have to be there."

During kindergarten registration Monday and Tuesday, the administration will try to explain to parents the options, Bergmann said.

Registration would also allow the school district to get an estimate of the number of parents intending to enroll their children in a half-day program.

And once a parent makes a decision on half-day or full-day kindergarten, their child should remain in that program, School Board member Jo Ann Baxter said.

"Once school starts, that will be the way it is," Baxter said. "We can't have students changing from half-day to full-day."

Thom Schnellinger, Moffat County High School principal, said that while he wasn't directly involved with kindergarten, he thought parents should be a part of the decision.

"If parents want to engage their children, that is entirely up to them," he said. "They should have their choice, and you should honor it."

Snow said that given the choice, he would choose half-day, because the gap between students enrolled in half-day kindergarten and full-day eventually disappears.

"By the time they are in high school there is no difference," he said. "Any advantage they had from all-day kindergarten would wash out by the time they were in high school.

"My kids have done well in half-day. I think all the principals here tonight would agree that my kids are near the top of their classes."

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