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Schools: Full-day K will cost $1M-plus
The school board has not made the call and state legislators haven’t found the supporting funds, but Sequim School District administrators are not taking any chances.
They are preparing for full day kindergarten.
Administrators prepared a cost analysis of what it would take to implement full-day kindergarten for nearly 200 kindergartners for the 2014-2015 school year. The price tag? About $300,000 this year and about $900,000 in 2014, or $1.2 million in total.
The 2013 expenditures would go to purchase three portables to put Sequim’s elementary schools (Greywolf and Helen Haller).
Brian Lewis, the district’s business manager, said the district would put fifth-grade students in the portables and put kindergartners where the fifth- graders are now.
The costs jump up in 2014, when the district would need to add the equivalent of six-and-a-half teachers — at a cost of $455,000 — plus $60,000 to set up classrooms and $70,000 for a specialist; Lewis said that contracts with teachers require 52 minutes of “prep time,” during which students visit specialists that provide instruction in science, music, physical education and more.
What’s not required in those costs but recommended, Lewis said, are classroom aides that could add another $320,000 each year.
The issue of full-day kindergarten is on Sequim’s radar after the state legislature made available funds to some qualifying schools in 2013. Schools that had at or higher than 50 percent of students eligible for free- and reduced-cost meals qualified for some funds for full-day programs, but last year just one of Sequim’s two elementary schools (Helen Haller Elementary, 55.7 percent) met the criteria, while Greywolf (48.6 percent) did not.
“Our biggest concern is it would create transfer issues,” Sequim schools superintendent Kelly Shea said at the time.
Sequim’s school board of directors passed on implementation of the program at the time, as did several qualifying school districts across the state.
Gov. Jay Inslee sparked the possibility of adding full-day kindergarten in more school districts with the 2014 supplemental operating budget when he detailed more program funding in his budget, but with two weeks remaining in the legislative session neither House or Senate budgets detail more dollars for the program.
“We are not expecting the state to expand funding for full-day kindergarten,” Lewis said, “(but) you can never tell until we’re done.”
Sequim schools serve about 190 kindergarten students at the two elementary schools, but only on a half-day basis. Adding full-day kindergarten would put a strain on the schools that already at student capacity; hence, the portables.
It’s one of the reasons school district officials and advocates are urging voters to consider a $154 million bond proposal that would in part fund construction of a new elementary school and expand Greywolf Elementary.
That bond vote is slated for April 22.
Inside the numbers
“We’ve got a bit of a baby boom going on,” Lewis said this week. Numbers from the Washington state Department of Health list “live births” for the Sequim School District area indicate a steady growth in births in the district.
Using a five-year rolling average, Lewis and staffers determined Sequim schools can expect about 208 kindergartners in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, about 220 kindergartners by 2016-2017 and 240 kindergartners in 2017-2018.
“That’s why we’re concerned about having classroom space for these incoming kindergartners,” Lewis said.
Sequim’s cost estimates were based on the idea that most parents would choose to put their children in full-day kindergarten, though the projection also figures in a classroom for parents who want to stay with a half-day kindergarten schedule, Lewis said.
School districts looking to add full-day kindergarten are required to do complete an outreach in the district to gauge parent interest in the program.
Statewide, school districts will be required to have full-day kindergarten programs in place by 2018. Lewis said he expects both Greywolf and Helen Haller schools to be eligible for state funding for the program well before then — by the 2015-2016 school year — as the state lowers the threshold for qualifying schools.
“We are preparing for (the 2018 deadline),” Lewis said. “If the board wants to accelerate that we’ll make it happen, but that’s up to the board.”