The Eastwood school board is asking the Ohio Department of Education for a waiver from being required to offer a full-time kindergarten program for the next school year.
Board members approved a resolution seeking the waiver at their regular meeting last week.
A requirement for districts to offer all-day kindergarten classes was included in the state’s biennium budget but district’s can seek a waiver in certain circumstances.
Noting the state’s operating budget cut state aid to schools, State Representative Randy Gardner last year sponsored a bill allowing districts to opt out of having to offer full-time kindergarten classes and what he said were other unfunded mandates.
Eastwood superintendent Brent Welker and the board have estimated a full-time program would cost about $100,000 annually while projecting state revenues to the district would remain flat or drop for six years or more. The decision to seek a waiver is more a matter of a lack of classroom space, Welker said, noting the district has closed Webster Elementary School.
The state budget bill allows districts that provided tuition-based all-day kindergarten during the 2008-09 school year to continue charging tuition through the 2010-11 school year but the tuition fees can’t exceed rates charged in 2008-09.
No district may charge a tuition fee for providing all-day, everyday kindergarten classes starting with the 2011-12 school year, according to the Ohio Department of Education.
Eastwood now offers a half-day, everyday kindergarten program.
Eastwood treasurer Dave Michel said the district saw drops in state revenue of 1 and 2 percent the last two fiscal years.
The Genoa School District has been offering all-day, everyday kindergarten classes for about 13 years. Prior to then, the district offered an all-day, every other day format. Superintendent Dennis Mock last year estimated it cost the district about $250,000 annually to pay for five full-time teachers.
Lake Local Schools have been offering everyday kindergarten classes for three years. District treasurer Jeff Carpenter said three teachers were added to the staff, costing the district about $150,000-$200,000 for the program.
The Eastwood board last week took the first step to seeking voter renewal of a 1 percent income tax, approving a resolution of necessity for the levy, which will likely be on the May ballot.
Michel said the income tax, now in its fifth year, generates about $1.5 million annually.
The board and administration promoted the income tax initially by pledging to not seek renewal of an 8.9-mill property tax.
Eastwood voters last year approved a 4.45-mill, 5-year emergency property tax issue.
If voters renew the income tax, Eastwood will not need additional local revenues at least until 2015 even with the loss of state funds, Welker said.