Free Full-Day Kindergarten to Start Next Year
The Mehlville School Board met Thursday night and approved making the full-day program the norm in the district.
The Mehlville School District Board of Education Thursday approved free full-day kindergarten for the 2013-14 school year.
The motion passed 7-0.
Superintendent Dr. Eric Knost told the school board he believed that the benefits of full-day kindergarten would pay off exponentially. He noted the increasing rigor of Missouri's Common Core state standards as one reason full-day kindergarten would be a benefit to students.
"These kids are going to be required to meet standards that kids meet now in third or fourth grade," he said.
District officials went over the proposal from a curricular, facility and financial standpoint. They pointed to the benefits of increased instructional time, the fact that the district could change the kindergarten day without adding facilities and the net gain to the district financially.
The loss of tuition for the current full-day program would be covered by the increase in state funding for weighted full-day attendance.
In order to guage the feasibilty of going to a full-day program, the district moved up kindergarten enrollment to October. By marketing the early enrollment, the district was able to get a better handle on the number of students who may attend next year.
Two scenarios were presented based on current figures, enrollment for 2013-14 and the live birth rate data for kindergarten age children in the Mehlville area. By those count the kindergarten class could range from 650 to 765.
Mehlville was one of only four districts in Missouri that charged tuition for its full-day kindergarten, and tuition-free classes have grown in popularity nationwide. The three remaining districts are also in St. Louis County: Lindbergh, Rockwood and Webster Groves school districts.
Kirkwood School District most recently switched to a tuition-free program in December.
Parents will still have the opportunity to enroll their children in the half-day program. That could be handed two ways—children leave a full-day class at mid-day or the district has one self-contained half-day class at one elementary building.
Knost said that only about 25 families indicated they would be interested in the half-day option. He said the district plans to hold the half-day program as a transitional tool for families, but noted that if the number of children enrolled in half-day dropped below 12, it would not be financially feasible to have a designated half-day class.
After voting to approve the move to full-day kindergarten, the board voted to change the tuition rate to $0 for the program.
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