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Free all-day kindergarten coming to all Central Valley schools

All kindergarten students in the Central Valley School District will have the opportunity to attend class all day in the fall.

The decision was announced Friday. As recently as last week, parents at five of the district’s schools were being told they had to pay tuition of up to $350 a month if they wanted all-day kindergarten.

The prospect of having to pay while students at seven other schools received all-day kindergarten for no charge angered some parents. At least one parent who was unable to afford the tuition enrolled her child into the East Valley School District rather than miss out on all-day kindergarten.

The change in policy is so recent that parents have not yet been informed, said Superintendent Ben Small.

“At the times we were making these decisions, we didn’t have the space,” he said. “We knew that we had this issue.”

The original plan was to have free all-day kindergarten for everyone in place for the 2017-18 school year after several school construction projects are scheduled to be complete, Small said. The full-day tuition option has been available in previous years when the state did not fund all-day kindergarten, but this coming school year all-day sessions are fully funded.

Even with that funding, the district didn’t think it had the space available to add the number of classrooms needed to offer full-day kindergarten to everyone. “It’s purely about space,” Small said.

As fall enrollment numbers became finalized, district staff re-evaluated space to offer all-day kindergarten at every school. Some schools were able to eliminate classes in other grades to make room for kindergarten, Small said.

“Our numbers are very stable with where they have been,” he said. “This is a big step for us as a district. We know this is a big deal.”

Janet Schmidt will have a son in kindergarten in the fall and was excited to hear about the district’s new policy. She was prepared to pay tuition for her son to attend all-day kindergarten.

“I’m just thrilled,” she said. “I thought there was an inequity across the district. I was willing to make that sacrifice, but some people can’t.”

Half-day kindergarten students are in school for just three hours, including recess, Schmidt said.

“That’s not a lot of time,” she said. “I love more instruction time.”

The district will have to add about five new kindergarten classrooms, but there still will be a few half-day sessions available at the district’s Kindergarten Center, Small said.

“Some parents do want half-day,” he said.


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