“We are very disappointed,” Superintendent Marci Larsen said Friday “The all-day kindergarten program is valuable and we know that many parents believe it’s important that their child have an all-day kindergarten experience. But, we simply don’t have the classrooms available.”
As the number of students in all elementary grades has climbed in recent years, the number of classrooms available for the tuition-based, all-day program has declined.
Six years ago, the district offered nine all-day sessions in which state funding pays for a half-day and tuition covers the other half.
This year, the district could only offer three all-day classes, one each at Odyssey, Endeavour and Serene Lake elementaries. A total of 75 students are enrolled in the programs.
Looking ahead, the district anticipates enrollment will climb by 126 students next year, said spokesman Andy Muntz. Every classroom, including portables to be installed this summer, will be needed to accommodate them, he said.
A space crunch forced the district to turn down $1.6 million in state money last year that would have paid to expand all-day kindergarten sessions.
When school districts go from half-day to full-day kindergarten, it takes twice as many classrooms and the district did not have them, Muntz said.
The situation could start to change in 2016.
That’s because in February voters approved a $119 million bond measure to fund construction of a new elementary school and a new early-learning kindergarten center.
District officials hope to open the school in the fall of 2016 and the early-learning center a year later is scheduled to be completed a year later. When both are open, the district hopes all-day sessions can be offered for every kindergarten student.
“We wish those new buildings could be ready next fall, but that’s obviously impossible,” Larsen said.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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