The Moscow School Board voted to move forward with a plan to extend its current half-day kindergarten program to full time.
The change is expected to cost the district an average of $245,000 annually in additional teacher salaries, as it will create the need for four full-time equivalent certified positions.
The option will become available during the 2016-17 academic year.
Superintendent Greg Bailey said he has been working to bring about a full-time kindergarten program since his arrival in the district.
“When I came here I had experienced all-day kindergarten in my last district and saw the growth of students and how well they did,” he said.
The sticking point, he said, was finding enough room for the additional classes that would accompany the program. Bailey said he met about three months ago with elementary administrators and teachers who said they could accommodate the additional classes in their buildings.
“It was like hitting a button, let’s go,” Bailey said.
Parents can currently opt-in to have their kindergartners remain in class for the duration of a typical school day at the cost of $11 per day, for an average of $220 per month, according to the district’s website.
“It’s been great, but it hasn’t been for every single child – it’s for the students who can afford it,” Bailey said. “All-day K allows us to impact all the students coming into our program, giving them a stronger baseline, giving them time to learn the basics so they’ll be ready for first grade.”
The new plan will provide full-day kindergarten classes free of charge to parents.
The increased costs for the district will be offset by a savings in transportation, as buses won’t be making midday trips to deliver morning kindergartners home any longer, Bailey said.
Bailey said teachers, parents and community members have all seen the need to expand kindergarten.
“We are continually working with kids and being asked to do more and more with our students as they go through our system. Kids can go to college and if they need more education they can go five, six, seven years,” he said. “We’ve got a 13-year span with kids and have to fit more and more and more in there.”
Bailey said the adoption of the full-time program will also help to keep student numbers strong in the Moscow School District.
“The state of Washington just passed legislation for kids to go to all-day kindergarten,” Bailey said. “Pullman’s our competition, economically, in bringing families into our community versus going over there. This will help us maintain our populations in this community.”
Bailey said he expects to see a ripple effect in student success, as giving the district’s youngest additional instruction will improve the knowledge they bring to higher grades.
“This will affect not only kindergarten, this will affect first grade, second grade, third grade on up,” Bailey said. “What I’ve seen with test scores when you’ve gone from half-time to full-time kindergarten, you see a big gain.”
Start-up funding for the program will come from existing money used for the optional full-day kindergarten program, which currently amounts to approximately $100,000.
“We don’t want to lose the progress they’ve gained in that first year,” Bailey said.
In addition to the kindergarten expansion, Bailey said he is working with teachers and administrators to create a screening process for incoming kindergarten students. While the process would not exclude students, it would provide the district with information on which students may need extra help during their first year. That knowledge can assist with placement in individual kindergarten classes.
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