Hayden to start daylong kindergarten

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— Kindergarten will be an all-day affair in Hayden beginning this fall.

The district received word earlier this month that it will receive funding to expand kindergarten classes from half to full days thanks to additional money made available from the state's Colorado Preschool Kindergarten Program.

"We think it's going to be a huge step for our students and will give our kindergarten students the start they need for first grade," Hayden Superintendent Mike Luppes said.

In Colorado, children are not required to attend kindergarten, but school officials see it as necessary.

The Hayden School District, along with parents, have looked into expanding the program for years, Luppes said.

"We have looked at it before, and the budget situation has not been such that we could afford it," he said. "The tuition for parents would have been too unreasonable."

State funding appears to have solved this problem.

The details are being worked out, but Luppes said parents will still have to pay some tuition.

"The district's intent is to make it affordable and reasonable and definitely less expensive than day care," he said.

Parents can apply for free or reduced tuition.

He estimated expanding the program would mean an additional cost of about $65,000. The state is expected to pick up more than half of that cost. Tuition and district funds would pay for the rest.

Expanding the program also means hiring a second kindergarten teacher to help Christine Epp teach the 28 students expected to enroll this fall. Former Hayden teacher Melany Neaton has spent the past year teaching in Craig and will be considered by the Hayden School Board this week for the position. A para-professional will be hired to comply with state funding rules that require the teacher-to-student ratio not exceed 1-to-8 during certain parts of the day.

Half-day school will still be an option, but Luppes expects most parents will choose the full-day program.

"It's a huge step at first grade if they come in having kindergarten," Luppes said.

South Routt Elementary School already offers daylong kindergarten and Steamboat Springs offers a half-day.

Steamboat Superintendent Don----na Howell said the district continues to explore the possibility of offering daylong kindergarten.

"The research is strong about the presence of early childhood education," Howell said.

She said the district likely is not eligible for the funding Hayden is receiving because of the district's demography.

Funding a daylong program is a challenge in addition to having the facilities to teach the classes, she said. Daylong kindergarten would be part of the discussion regarding building a new elementary school, Howell said.

"The whole issue does surface periodically," she said.

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