Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Steamboat Springs A committee studying the prospect of all-day kindergarten in the Steamboat Springs School District is at a standstill until provided with further direction from the School Board, an official told board members Monday night.
The committee, composed of administrators, teachers, parents and community members, has been meeting for the past three months to discuss how best to implement such a program in Steamboat Springs. At Monday's School Board study session, JoAnne Hilton-Gabeler, the school district's director of curriculum and instruction, said the committee needs direction.
"They don't know the point in why to do this," Hilton-Gabeler said. "Is this about child care issues, providing resources for lower-performing students or higher-performing students? They need to know why they are doing this so they can finish crafting the program."
Providing kindergarten is optional for Colorado public schools. The state provides funding only for half-day kindergarten programs, which the district offers at Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools. There are 118 kindergartners enrolled in the program.
Board member Laura Anderson said the need for all-day kindergarten is a community-driven request.
"It's clear that the community feels like it's time for all-day kindergarten," she said.
Board member Denise Connelly said the issue isn't just a matter of scholastics, but a benefit to the whole community.
"We address some early needs of at-risk kids who could drop out and get into a life of crime," she said.
In discussing the cost of implementing the program, board member John DeVincentis said he hopes all-day kindergarten has a minimal impact on district finances.
"For me, I hope there will be a limited cost to the district because the cost should be tuition based on a sliding scale," he said.
The School Board also discussed Gov. Bill Ritter's P-20 Education Council, which could provide state funding for all-day kindergarten. Superintendent Sandra Smyser noted that as the governor's program is written, districts that fund all-day kindergarten will not be eligible for state funding.
"We may not get (funding) for kindergarten, but we are still eligible for the money, and we can maybe use it for other programs, such as ones for 3- and 4-year-olds," she said.
Soda Creek Principal Judy Harris urged the School Board to pick up the pace in their all-day kindergarten decision-making process so administrators have enough time to plan for the 2008-09 school year. The School Board has previously stated a desire to have an all-day kindergarten decision made by March 1.
"I feel really uneasy about sitting here in the middle of January, and we aren't close to a decision," she said.
Anderson added that she would like board members to be prudent rather than quick.
"I'd rather take time and do it right," she said. "I would not like to open (the program) on Sept. 1 if we don't go about it in a thoughtful manner."
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