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School Board Delays Kindergarten Discussion

The board heard a brief overview of the plan to implement tuition-free, full-day kindergarten starting with the 2013-2014 school year.

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 , 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.    

Jason Wescoat January 19, 2012 at 11:00 PM
The question I have is, will the full day Kindergarten be mandated, or will there still be half day as an option? We may be in the minority, but we like half day Kindergarten as it works our kids up from a part-time preschool to a full week but half-day school to a full-time school by 1st grade. The gradual increase in time intensity was easy for my son to manage, as well as his parents. The thought of sending my next daughter off for a full day right off the bat (oldest daughter hits Kindergarten next year, so this won't apply), isn't something that excites me.
Brenda Kimberlin February 23, 2012 at 07:31 PM
I contacted the district last year to ask this same question and they told me that if we go to a full-day program the half-day option will be eliminated -- no more half-day. I agree, full-day is not the right option for my children either. In fact, I have a friend in the Fox district (which is full-day) who envies the fact that we still have half-day. Her son is very smart and tests well, but the full-day was a rough transition for him from pre-school. Kindergarten really sets the scene for the rest of their education and when that year doesn't go well, the damage can be hard to reverse. They are still struggling to recover from it. And even though full-day supporters like to say they're in the majority on this issue, they're not. From what I have seen from the district's own survey, voters and parents in this district are split down the middle on it. But based on the comments I've seen from the Mehlville School Board and the district's superintendent, it looks like they will do whatever it takes to push this through, regardless of those facts.
Karl Frank Jr. February 23, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Brenda. You are way off-base. Study after study has been performed that shows that universal early childhood education saves tax payers an average of $7 per dollar spent because of early intervention, increased graduation rates, and more. The amount is as little as $4 and as high as $12 and depends on the extent of the program. You are also leaving out a very important factor in your "evening out" comments, which is that it is only true at a particular socio-economic status family. I've written about it here before and have shared the peer-reviewed academic studies on the matter...not in the mood to rehash it now. You can start here: http://web.mit.edu/workplacecenter/docs/Full%2520Report.pdf&pli=1
Brenda Kimberlin February 24, 2012 at 03:57 AM
Mr. Frank, I stated that full-day kindergarten is not right for my child or every child. So who are you to tell me that I'm "way off-base?" I decide what's right for my child, not you. And if you believe that the voters in Mehlville agree with your viewpoint, why not put this on the ballot and see how it does? If it wins fair and square, great. You can do a victory dance. In the meantime, dig a little deeper on your research. Even studies that conclude in FAVOR of full-day note that the gains are minimal, at best. And I quote: "The full-day advantage in literacy amounts to slightly more than one month of extra learning and the advantage in math is slightly less than one month." "Early Education for All" American Journal of Education, 112, February 2006. You can start there.
Karl Frank Jr. February 24, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Again, it depends on socio-economic status. Also, it isn't mandatory full-day kindergarten for parents that don't want it. Parents will have exit-points to pick up kids half-way through the day if they wish. A couple of questions. Do you have a dog in this fight? Meaning, do you have something to gain or lose either way? For instance, I know some of the day care centers around town are not happy at all about this. Not accusing, just wondering. Second, do you have access to the study you are citing so that you can share it? My research has shown that what you cite is only the case when you are talking about students of similar socio-economic status, and the results vary greatly by socioeconomic status of the family. It also depends one whether or not it was coupled by curriculum-based early childhood education or not. It's much more complicated that you are making it seem.
Karl Frank Jr. February 24, 2012 at 03:55 PM
And as far as polling for every decision you make goes, "Good leaders take people where they want to go. Great leaders take people where they ought to go." - Lincoln. If people don't like full-day kindergarten, they can elect new board members. That's why we have representative government and not a micro-managed democracy.
Karl Frank Jr. February 24, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Brenda. Are you a PR Consultant? Are you working for someone with these posts?
Karl Frank Jr. February 24, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Perhaps - "Media Coordinator - Outside Consultant at Lutheran Elementary School Assocation"
Karl Frank Jr. February 24, 2012 at 05:48 PM
No. Just Media Coordinators for Lutheran Elementary Schools Associations. If you have a dog in a fight, it effects your credibility.
Brenda Kimberlin February 24, 2012 at 05:49 PM
When I emailed the district after the last bond issue, I was told that mandatory full-day would mean no half-day. If this has changed, then that's fantastic. We have nothing more to discuss and you just went to a lot of nasty trouble over nothing. And yes, I do have a "dog" in this fight. My child and my conscience. I have a right to voice my opinion in this district. There's a word for what you're doing here: bullying. And it's not going to work.
Karl Frank Jr. February 24, 2012 at 05:56 PM
You probably should have come clean to begin with so that everyone could at least know your lobbyist style ties. PR 101.
Brenda Kimberlin February 24, 2012 at 06:12 PM
No, you should have stayed out of my personal and professional business. You know as well as I do that my work in PR has NOTHING to do with my opinions on what's best for my child. Mr. Frank, a lobbyist is someone who "lobbies" government bodies on behalf of a cleint. I am a stay-at-home mother who gets paid $3,000 a year to write a newsletter and press releases for a group of private schools in the St. Louis Metro Area. I pay my taxes, I use my local public school district and I have a right to my PERSONAL opinion. You, sir, are a dirty politician.
Karl Frank Jr. February 24, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Whatever you say. You're the PR professional for Lutheran Elementary Schools Association. I am just a computer guy.
Jim Martin March 16, 2012 at 12:52 PM
While I am in support of free full-day kindergarten, I am not in support of bringing in a commenter's personal life as a counter argument. It's very sad that this discussion could not just revolve around the issue, that it had to devolve into a personal witch hunt. Mr. Frank, if your counter argument will be centered around the fact that this person't job is with private schools, then that is a weak argument and not worth publicly posting on a public site. This woman deserved better than that, she deserved an actual debate on the merits of the issue, not her job. Poorly played sir.
Karl Frank Jr. March 16, 2012 at 01:55 PM
The argument and studies are clearly presented. Her failure to disclose her profession as a PR profession for Lutheran Elementary Schools Association was poorly played.
Christine Stewart Mehigh March 16, 2012 at 02:24 PM
I agree Karl.
Jim Martin March 16, 2012 at 07:21 PM
And yet you did not disclose your profession until after YOU had disclosed hers. Apparently in your mind the fact that she does PR for Lutheran Schools somehow makes her opinion a moot point. Nowhere did I see her suggest that students should instead move to private schools instead of attending a full day of kindergarten, so if you could please inform me as to how her profession has anything at all to do with the debate, because I can't see it and because I guess I didn't know that disclosure of one's profession was required to comment and debate on an issue. So just in case, I better say that I work for a water treatment company. I guess that gives you license to call my comments sewage.
Karl Frank Jr. March 16, 2012 at 08:48 PM
It's simple Jim, as someone who served on the board of education for five years I was routinely contacted by daycare-style institutions on a regular basis when we were discussing early childhood education and full-day kindergarten. They have a fiscal interest in Mehlville's desire to ensure quality early-childhood education for all. Personally, I think its short-sighted. A little competition will make them all better. if they lose business, then maybe they aren't so special after all.
Jim Martin March 17, 2012 at 12:27 AM
I totally agree with that premise as you presented it, which focused not on the person but on the topic and on the issue. I completely support full day early childhood and full day kindergarten, regardless of socioeconomic status. Below is an extremely well written document regarding the benefits of full day kindergarten. It is very well cited with multiple research studies. Bottom line is this---students who attend full day kindergarten for 174 day will have 87 more days of education than students who only attend half day. Parents who are concerned about having opportunity to play or have unstructured time should know that kindergarten teachers offer plenty of opportunities for this. Also, with more peers in the classroom students have many more opportunities for social interaction, turn taking, and social development. In my opinion, parents who don't want full day kindergarten are probably not thinking about the child but instead their own needs as a parent to not watch "their baby grow up." In Singapore, one of the best educational systems in the world, students start school at age 4 where they go full day. If they are doing it, why aren't we? Here is the link http://school.elps.k12.mi.us/kindergarten-study/Full_Day_Benefits.pdf And Mr. Frank I'm glad you could present a logical counter focusing on economic gains for daycare programs rather than focusing strictly on a person
Eric D. Knost March 19, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Anyone who has called me or heard me discuss this in public session knows I have never used the word mandatory. We will design the full day program in a way to allow students to be dismissed at a half day designated time. While this will be our attempt to accommodate parents wanting to stay half day, other districts who have done so all say the requests for half day typically diminish quickly. Regardless, if we are able to implement free full day kindergarten, I plan to allow the half day dismissal if requested.
Jason Wescoat March 28, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Thank you, Dr. Knost, for responding here. I could have called, but generally try to avoid bothering administrators with what might be considered trivial issues, and have unfortunately been prevented (or forgot) from attending the town hall sessions you have started doing. I think those are a wonderful idea, and I hope to be able to attend them in the future.
Jason Wescoat March 28, 2012 at 07:46 PM
C'mon Karl, you know that no parent is going to take their kid out of an already paid for kindergarten half way through the day and move them to daycare site where there will be additional charges. Now, that's not a reason to not do full day kindergarten for the district, but acting like it would be a fair playing field is for the daycare centers to compete against the publicly funded school system is just wrong. Perhaps it's a different story for pre-K situations, but not once they have reached Kindergarten.
Jason Wescoat March 28, 2012 at 07:48 PM
For the record, that quote isn't from Lincoln. I'm pretty sure that was the First Lady, Mrs. Carter... I do tend to agree with the sentiment of your note, just clarifying the quote source.
Jason Wescoat March 28, 2012 at 07:52 PM
A PR professional who sends her child to public school. Harping on something you know nothing about (her specific job) doesn't reflect well on you. Are there boatloads of kids leaving half-day kindergarten and flocking to Lutheran schools for the other half of the day? If not, which is not a point you made, your argument had no credibility. Your experience on the board with daycare's is relevant, but this wasn't.
Jason Wescoat March 28, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Mr. Martin, I'm sure all of us who would prefer half-day kindergarten for our own families appreciate your insult about both our capabilities and our priorities. Also, could you present an logical argument for the additional 87 days of school actually benefiting the child beyond academics? Academics is important, but not the only thing. Citing a paper that cites papers written for elementary academic journals won't help. Most of these "papers" I've actually seen are paid for and done by people with an agenda to get more funding for public education (side note, I'm all for education funding, but would much prefer to take it from other government funded items as opposed to more from the taxpayers). That doesn't make them wrong, but it certainly isn't unbiased. One of the hazards of NCLB and the absurd assumption made by that law that all children are equal in intelligence and cognitive ability, without regard for artistic ability and other non Math or Communication Arts abilities, is that schools must fight for every second of teaching time they can get, so they can hope to meet increasingly impossible standards that they're being held to that parents aren't. How about being allowed to teach the child where they are, instead of putting them in a box that they might not fit into. This isn't a knock against the MSD at all, just the system as a whole.

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