The Mehlville School District Board of Education was scheduled to hear a detailed plan for tuition-free, full-day kindergarten in the Mehlville School District for the 2013-2014 school year at Wednesday’s meeting.
But as the hour neared 11 p.m., board member Rich Franz suggested the board delay the discussion for a later time.
Instead, Superintendent Eric Knost gave a brief synopsis of his plan, which he said he’d present to the board in full in the spring. The proposal outlined tuition-free, full-day kindergarten for the 2013-2014 school year.
Currently, the district charges tuition for full-day kindergarten, but offers a free half-day program to families. In the 2012-2013 school year, Mehlville will be one of four districts in the state that does not offer free, full-day kindergarten.
Knost said the program would be largely funded through the state, becoming a positive revenue source for the district. When discussing kindergarten at a meeting Jan. 7, he said the district would receive more funding from the state by going to a free, full-day program than it currently does from tuition.
“Bottom line, the financial end of it, at this point in time, it makes more sense financially to be state-funded on this… than it does to be funded through tuition,” Knost said.
State funding would take care of program costs, additional teachers and have money left over for furniture and small classroom needs. However, he said it did not consider facilities, mainly classroom space.
Brian Lane, the district’s assistant superintendent for the supervision of schools, studied the district’s buildings and found that all but two schools would have the necessary space for full-day kindergarten with its current enrollment—approximately 680 students.
Both Oakville Elementary and Trautwein Elementary Schools do not have the classroom space for full-day kindergarten. Knost said he and his staff would work on ironing out the ability to move seats considering those two schools.
Lane also studied the potential influx of students the district could see from offering the free program. Knost said out of 940 possible attendees, the district could hold 820 students. After converting existing kindergarten rooms to full-day classes, the district could host 140 more students in its full-day program than it does now, a 54 percent increase.
“That’s promising to think of that,” Knost said. “I think it’d probably be more accurate to consider 10, 20 maybe 30 percent, but a 54 percent increase, we could handle.”
The plan still has a few uncertain variables. Besides space at Oakville and Trautwien, Knost said he would be watching the legislative session for concrete numbers in state funding, while continuing research on the program.