Saline schools will start district-wide all-day kindergarten this fall
Saline Area Schools will transition to an all-day kindergarten program in the fall of 2012 per a 6-0 vote by the Board of Education Tuesday night.
The switch was prompted by a county-wide movement in this direction, as well as a pending initiative from the State Legislature to structure per-pupil funding around the number of minutes a child is actually in the classroom.
In other words, based on this year’s foundation allowance, Saline schools would receive about $3,500 instead of about $7,000 for each half-day kindergartener, said Superintendent Scot Graden.
Graden said starting the all-day program will cost the district about $500,000 - a savings of nearly $1 million, if the Legislature decides to go with the new funding plan.
Graden explained not switching to a full-day would cost the district a total of approximately $1.5 million under the proposed legislation to give only half of the per-pupil funding allowance to part-time kindergarteners.
A group of about seven administrators and educators from Saline elementary schools gathered in the audience of the regular board meeting Tuesday night. They were all smiles when the board approved the 8:50 a.m. to 3:35 p.m. schedule for kindergarteners.
“Eight years ago, we put this proposal together,” said Betty Rosen-Leacher, principal at Harvest Elementary School. “So we are thrilled.”
She said with the extensive curriculum that is now required of teachers even in the lower elementary schools, “a half day doesn’t cut it.”
“This will give teachers time to not just implement the curriculum, but also to give their 5-year-olds the developmental lessons and time children that age need to be successful later in life,” Rosen-Leacher said.
Graden said the half funding concept originally was included in the Legislature’s budget resolution for the current fiscal year. However, after some controversy surrounding the idea of all-day kindergarten, it was postponed with the intent to be revisited in a year.
Saline Area Schools will need to add five sections of all-day kindergarten throughout the district. Saline has three classrooms on an “extended day option.” This option would be eliminated through the all-day kindergarten policy, Graden said, creating a loss of revenue for the district.
Parents pay $4,000 per year to enroll their children in this option.
Adding five sections of kindergarten does not mean SAS will hire five new teachers.
“As we move forward into the budget process, we may see we need to reduce other sections of higher grade levels,” Graden said, admitting it will be a tough budget process come spring.
Saline spent about $1.3 million of its equity this school year, reducing the district’s fund balance from about $2.5 to $1.2 million, he said. But the board and teachers agree all-day kindergarten is worth funding.
Graden said it was important for the board to take action on the kindergarten schedule at Tuesday’s meeting to give parents adequate time to prepare before kindergarten registration begins in mid-February.
Trustee Todd Carter asked whether kindergarten enrollment would suffer for the 2012-2013 academic year with Saline being a “school of choice” district at the lower elementary level. Graden said he does not believe so, considering many of the other districts in Washtenaw County also now have all-day programs or are discussing switching.
“I believe the kids will definitely benefit from more time in the classroom,” said Trustee Craig Hoeft.
Trustee David Friese was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.