Two more South Kitsap School District elementary schools will offer free, all-day kindergarten beginning in September.
Interim assistant superintendent Bev Cheney said Hidden Creek and Manchester will join Burley-Glenwood, East Port Orchard, Olalla, Orchard Heights and Sidney Glen in offering the program.
It is part of superintendent Michelle Reid’s plan to offer free, all-day kindergarten throughout SKSD by the 2016-17 school year. All-day kindergarten will be offered at Mullenix Ridge, South Colby and Sunnyslope. Tuition will be $200 per month, or $100 per month for families that qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch. These three schools also will continue to offer free half-day kindergarten during the upcoming school year.
Cheney said district officials elected to first award free all-day kindergarten to schools with the most families that qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch.
Reid said finances were the impetus behind the gradual all-day kindergarten rollout. She said the program required SKSD to hire 7.5 teachers at a cost of $536,000 during this school year. Reid expected about half of that cost to be covered by the Learning Assistance Program, Title I funds and other state grants.
But when she introduced the plan in March 2014, Reid said it was a necessary expense.
She said the implementation of Common Core State Standards, which are part of a multi-state effort to develop common educational goals in addition to assessments that can be utilized to compare schools and students from around the country, has resulted in the continuous expansion of the kindergarten curriculum. Despite that, instructional time for kindergartners in SKSD remained at 2 hours, 40 minutes.
Advocates say that children who enroll in all-day kindergarten programs perform better academically and socially. Cheney said all-day kindergarten has given students time for more “purposeful and meaningful play.” She said an example of that is students working together constructing a building out of blocks.
“It’s not only working on ensuring our students have a strong foundation, but also that we’re nurturing those skills they need to collaborate with each other,” she said. “They use their thinking skills.”
When she rolled out the plan, Reid also noted that there were about 61 kindergarten students living within SKSD boundaries that opted to attend school in other districts. During the 2012-13 school year, Reid said there were about 50 kindergartners going elsewhere.
Reid suspected that is because several neighboring school districts already offer all-day kindergarten at no charge, some parents elect to send their students to those schools. As those students develop friendships at their new schools, she said, they often choose to remain there.
The state uses a 10-month enrollment average — September to June — to calculate funding for schools. Tracy Patterson, assistant superintendent for business and operations, said the state provides about $5,700 in state funding per full-time equivalent (FTE) student.
While Cheney did not have figures for how many kindergarten students who live within the district’s boundaries elected to attend school elsewhere this year, she noted that SKSD’s enrollment at that grade level has spiked. Reid said the district had 8,433.17 FTE enrolled through February.