District plans to return to tuition-based, all-day kindergarten
April 6, 2016
Steamboat Springs — Facing a difficult budget outlook for the upcoming year, the Steamboat Springs School District plans to return to a tuition-based, all-day kindergarten program next year.
The district has amended its February request to the Education Fund, asking to remove an earlier request for funding for all-day kindergarten and instead seek additional funding for teachers.
Some Education Fund Board members Wednesday were disappointed, but understanding of the district's decision.
"We just gave the community all-day kindergarten, and now, we're taking it away," said President Sam Jones. "So that's not going to be super popular."
Last year, the district asked for about $329,000 to cover the costs of full-day kindergarten.
Before the current year, the district offered half-day kindergarten, which is funded by the state, free of charge and charged about $2,400 in annual tuition for a student to upgrade to a full-day program.
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Some EFB members said they had concerns about how the message of changing all-day kindergarten back to a tuition-based program would roll out to the community.
"I think there's going to be a huge amount of backlash," said Jay O'Hare, Fund Board vice president.
Superintendent Brad Meeks said he envisioned a letter coming out of his office announcing the change, adding that the district would take ownership of the decision.
Meeks said that, while the district's administration team originally placed all-day kindergarten at the top of the list of considerations during early budget discussions, administrators have since reconsidered.
"We're trying to balance our budget," Meeks said.
Board of Education members in March said they supported the district amending its request to the Education Fund.
"The board agreed it's an option we can consider," Meeks said.
District administrators said they would plan to offer some need-based scholarships for full-day kindergarten through READ Act funding.
The Education Fund Board on Wednesday approved a first reading of the district's revised grant applications, which include more than $2.3 million in requests for teachers, technology, programs for English language learners and gifted and talented students, adaptive PE and a handful of other items.
The board also approved first readings for requests from Hayden and South Routt and collaborative grants, as well as a first reading for a grant request from the Mountain Village Montessori Charter School, pending a legal opinion.
Some board and Education Fund Grant Commission members questioned whether funding the Montessori school was within the Education Fund's purview and sought a legal opinion.
The Grant Commission meets next week to perform second readings of the grants, and the commission is expected to perform a new first reading and a subsequent second reading of the Steamboat grant, due to the revision to the district's application.