Free Full-Day Kindergarten Plan Needs 600+ Class Size for Approval
The Mehlville School District is considering offering full-day kindergarten for free if enough students register this month for next school year. Is your child entering kindergarten? Vote in our poll if you prefer full-day or half-day programs.
Enrollment numbers this month will determine whether the Mehlville School District joins the statewide trend of offering a tuition-free, full-day kindergarten program next year.
If more than 600 families enroll their children into the 2013-14 full-day kindergarten class, the school district will recieve enough state funding to fund the program without tuition costs or dipping into the district's budget. Otherwise, the district charges more than $2,000 per year.
But there’s a time crunch. Planning for next year’s classes starts in December, so the district is opening kindergarten enrollment in the last week of October. (Look below for instructions on how to enroll.)
Superintendent Eric Knost called full-day kindergarten “part of my vision for the district,” but said it all comes down to the numbers.
“We know we want to do it, but until we have some hard numbers to determine what we will be dealing with, I can’t as superintendent make a final recommendation to the (school board,)” Knost said. “If we don’t hit that 600 mark or above, then we are going to have to really crunch the numbers and make sure it works financially.”
The Full-Day Trend
Mehlville is one of only four districts in Missouri that charges tuition for its full-day kindergarten. 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.
Children in full-day kindergarten programs tend to show stronger literacy and mathematics skills than their half-day peers, according to a report from the National Institute for Early Education Research. Studies show full-day kindergarteners have also outscored half-day students on standardized achievement tests while in kindergarten and for two years after kindergarten.
That news is particularly important for poor and disadvantaged families, as spending more time in early childhood education may “mitigate achievement inequality by reducing gaps in learning,” and full-day schooling also eases childcare and transportation costs for working families, according to the report.
“More and more research comes out clearly stating that early interventions with our children are the best tools to make sure we have success with them down the road, in middle school, high school and on to college years,” Knost said. “We need to invest in our early intervention, in our early education efforts with these children.”
Mehlville’s school board set tuition-free, full-day kindergarten as one of its top priorities earlier this year.
“I’m not interested in providing daycare for a family that has a dual income of $200,000 a year; I’m more interested in providing quality, all-day kindergarten for families of working parents who can’t afford to get the care they need for their children,” board member Rich Franz told Patch.
Keeping Half-Day Kindergarten
Parents will still have the opportunity to enroll their children in the half-day program. And some parents say they will choose the half-day program even if full-day tuition is free.
“There is plenty of time in their lives to be big kids going to big kid school,” mom Karin Jackson told Patch earlier this year. “I only get a few years to mold my children at home with my own rituals, outings and teaching opportunities.”
How to Enroll
Kindergarten enrollment for the Mehlville School District 2013-14 school year runs from October 22 to October 25. Parents should contact their neighborhood elementary school and make an appointment during that week.
Parents can register their children during school hours the week or October 22. They can also register from 4 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 24 and Thursday, October 25.