District explores fee-based all-day Kindergarten

By Lenny C. Lepola

January 22, 2014

There are folks on both sides of most issues, and especially so when it comes to education. All-day Kindergarten is one of those divisive issues. Currently, the Big Walnut Local School District offers half day Kindergarten at its three (soon to be four) elementary buildings. Students attend either a morning Kindergarten session or an afternoon session.

Many families with both parents working make use of local daycare centers pre-school and half-day Kindergarten sessions to fill in the other half day; while many stay at home moms (and dads and grandparents) prefer to have the five-year-olds in a home setting during the second half of the school day.

For some families it’s an economic choice. All-day Kindergarten would be great, but only if the school district or some other entity picked up the tab. For many one-income families the cost of a half-day Kindergarten session at a private day care facility would be prohibitive.

During the Thursday, January 9, Big Walnut Board of Education meeting District Superintendent Steve Mazzi said the school district is exploring the option of starting an optional, tuition-based All-Day Kindergarten.

While the Ohio Department of Education mandates full-day Kindergarten, Ohio’s 614 school districts have the option to waive the requirement in favor of half-day Kindergarten for economic reasons.

Big Walnut’s Assistant Superintendent Angie Pollock said research about early literacy indicates that students would benefit from attending Kindergarten for a full day; that early exposure to reading would mean fewer students would be held back as the result of not reading at standard by the end of the third grade.

The Third Grade Reading Guarantee, part of Senate Bill 316, mandates that beginning with this school year school districts cannot promote students who score below a certain level on the state reading test. Students who are held back must receive extra help — but it’s an unfunded mandate.

During an August 2012 Board meeting Pollock said the bill was written for school districts that don’t do early intervention with their students.

“We want to make sure all students are reading at a level by the third grade,” Pollock said. “We have eight students right now that don’t meet that standard. That’s not too many students compared to many other school districts, but it’s eight students too many if you’re the parents of those students.”

Pollock said if the School District moves forward with a fee-based all-day Kindergarten option the School District’s goal would be to provide the service at cost.

“We don’t have a set cost yet but it will be affordable compared to daycare rates,” Pollock said. “There will be an all-call and a survey on the School District website to get parent’s feedback; and we will work with area preschools and daycares because we know it will affect their business.”

Several Board members asked if an optional, fee-based all-day Kindergarten option might create two classes of students — a group of students who are more academically advanced because their parents could afford the extra half day of Kindergarten, and those who would be less academically advanced because they could not afford the all-day option.

Pollock said that the reverse would be true; that half-day Kindergarten teachers would be free to spend additional time working with individual students.

“If all the students in the district took advantage of full-day Kindergarten it would require six classrooms through the District’s four elementary buildings,” Pollock added. “We’re looking at how it would impact transportation. There will be more information at the February Board meeting, and then we’ll start registration.”

Parents can find more information and complete a survey located on the school District Website at < >, click the link All Day Kindergarten.

The district will hold a parent informational meeting at 6 p.m. tonight, Thursday, January 23, in the General Rosecrans Elementary School Cafe. GRE is located at 301 South Miller Drive in Sunbury.

Kindergarten options from the Ohio Department of Education Website

* Full-day Kindergarten (Ohio Revised Code 3321-05): Any school district may operate full-day Kindergarten. If a district provides full-day Kindergarten and the parent requests half-day services (minimum hours), the district must accommodate the request.

* Full-day Kindergarten Tuition (Ohio Revised Code 3317.029): Any school district that did not receive poverty-based assistance in fiscal year 2009 may charge fees or tuition for students enrolled in All-Day Kindergarten. If a district charges fees or tuition for All-Day kindergarten, the district shall develop a sliding fee scale based on family incomes.

* Facts and Figures: During Fiscal Year 2012 Ohio had 614 school districts with 2,003 elementary school buildings. Of Ohio’s 1,752,322 public school students, 134,045 are Kindergarten-age students. During the current 2013-14 school year Big Walnut’s three elementary buildings serve 219 Kindergarten students. The Kindergarten class size district wide is 19.72 students.