After two days of screening and registering prospective kindergarten students for the 2012-13 school year, Dolores Swineford, principal of Walbridge Elementary School, said parents appear to have accepted the decision by the Lake school board to reduce the kindergarten program to all-day, every other day.
A few parents asked if a “full-time” program would be reinstated if a levy is approved this year but no one raised questions about the efficacy of an all-day, every other day program, Swineford said.
The loss of all-day, every-day kindergarten classes in particular concerned some young parents during last month’s school board meeting when the board announced about $1.15 million in spending cuts would be enacted to avert a looming operating budget deficit.
One woman said she was considering enrolling her son in another district when he starts kindergarten to take advantage of its full-time program.
The kindergarten program “is our foundation,” she said.
Three of the eight classroom teachers losing their jobs are kindergarten teachers. In all, the district had six full-time kindergarten teachers prior to the cuts.
School districts are not required by state regulations to provide all-day, every-day kindergarten classes.
Swineford said 92 children have been registered for the 2012-13 kindergarten class, which is comparable to enrollment in past years, but it is common to see the registration figures rise or fall by five to 15 students over the summer as families move into or out of the district.
An all-day, every day program would be ideal, she said, but an all-day, every other day format has advantages over a half-day, every day schedule.
“An every other day program allows for more contact – learning and instruction – time than a half day program,” she said. “When looking at a school day, it is important to remember time that is taken away from instruction time; such as transition between activities, restroom breaks, coming in in the morning and packing up at the end of the day.
“Our teachers are required to cover curriculum material – the standards adopted by the Ohio Department of Education. These standards cover what the children are expected to know when leaving or finishing the current grade level. Our kindergarten program is presented in whole class instruction, small group instruction, and center-based, which allows our teachers to cover many of these standards in a single lesson or activity.”
A former kindergarten teacher in New London, O., Swineford has experience with an every other day format.
“It worked,” she said.
Ken Smith, a former Lake board member, has been critical of the board’s spending cuts, including the decision to close Walbridge Elementary School and reduce the kindergarten program.
“My biggest concern is selling the Walbridge building,” he writes in a letter to area newspapers. “If it is necessary to close and sell the building, you are restricting future board of education members from returning our class size to what has made us Excellent, and returning to all-day every-day kindergarten, What would be the cost to replace these classrooms, and how would that be paid for?”
In the Genoa district, the all-day, every-day kindergarten program may be reduced in the future.
“This item is on our list of possible future reductions,” said treasurer Bill Nye. “But the board values the program so we did not implement any reductions in this category yet.”
It costs the district about $265,597 for the salaries of five kindergarten teachers, according to Nye.
Brenda Murphy, principal of Genoa Elementary School, said 86 children were screened for the next school year and the district usually picks up 15-20 more students during the summer. She said she's had about 10 calls from parents in other districts asking about open enrollment
The Northwood district employs three full-time teachers for its all-day, every-day kindergarten program, said treasurer Angel Adamski.