District 621 will offer free all-day kindergarten in 2014

The Mounds View School District has plans in place to add a free all-day kindergarten option starting in 2014.

Superintendent Dan Hoverman said the district wants to make good on its Equity Promise, which states that all students in Mounds View schools be prepared for post-secondary success regardless of race, class or disability. 

School administrators believe having an all-day kindergarten option should be a part of that promise.

Mounds View Public Schools currently has a fee-based option for full-day kindergarten. Carole Nielsen, the district’s director of finance said around half of the district’s 780 kindergarteners are enrolled in the extra half-day option, which she said costs about $2,500 a year per pupil. 

The Legislature is currently looking at the possibility of providing some funding for all-day kindergarten programs, but Hoverman said the district has decided to proceed with plans to offer a free all-day option starting in 2014 regardless of what state funding may be available.

“We have looked through a number of funding scenarios,” Hoverman said. “The one piece that is unclear is whether or not some state funding will be available, but we are prepared to go through with it anyway. We have four to five resources in our budget we will use portions of.”

District 621 Public Relations Director Colin Sokolowski said the district has wanted to offer a free all-day option for years but has lacked the funding and space until now.

“We found a way to free up some space without having to put a shovel in the ground,” Sokolowski said.

He said due to increased enrollment there is very limited space in the existing elementary schools; however, there is adequate space at the Snail Lake Education Center in Shoreview and the Pike Lake Education Center in New Brighton.

The district plans to take kindergarten out of the district’s six elementary schools, making them first through fifth grade, which will also free up some space for increased enrollment.

Starting in 2014 kindergarten students from Island Lake and Turtle Lake Elementary Schools will attend classes at the Snail Lake Education Center. The four remaining schools -- Bel Air, Pinewood, Sunnyside and Valentine Hills’ kindergarteners will attend classes at the Pike Lake Education Center.

Both Education Centers, according to Sokolowski, have plenty of space for the students. He said both spaces already have cafeterias and gymnasiums in place as well.

Sokolowski said moving kindergarteners into the education centers would save the district a lot of time and money.

Construction costs to add onto the existing buildings were estimated to cost around $175 per square foot and would take well over a year to complete.

“We feel this is a better option,” Hoverman said. “There is a lot of planning we need to do, but we still have plenty of time.”

Hoverman said several studies have shown significant benefits to the extra time teachers have with kids enrolled in full-day kindergarten.  He said many districts in the metro that already have all-day kindergarten programs in place have seen positive results already.

Sokolowski said the all-day option may not be right for every student or every parent, but feels it is important to have the free option available for those who want to take advantage of it.

“We expect the number of students that participate in half day to decline gradually over the first year [2014]. There will always be families who don’t want to commit to full day, and that’s okay,” Sokolowski said.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7824.

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