Schools working to find space for all-day kindergartnersPublished 3:47pm Saturday, June 14, 2014
ST. PAUL — School districts across Minnesota are working to find more space for students, after lawmakers approved $134 million to fund all-day kindergarten.
In the past, some districts required parents to pay tuition for all-day kindergarten, which meant some families opted for free half-day programs — with afternoon and morning sessions often sharing a classroom. With all kindergarteners poised to attend school full-time, though, many schools are looking for ways to accommodate them all, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.
Although the new funding will help pay for schools to teach their kindergarteners all day, it can’t be used to add new learning space.
“It’s true they’re getting more money per student. But that’s for the educational costs,” said Greg Abbott, spokesman for the Minnesota School Boards Association. “That didn’t include more money for building additions.”
Forty-five Minnesota districts have gone to voters in the last 18 months to seek property tax increases for building projects. The Minnesota School Boards Association said 36 of the requests were related to building new schools or classrooms to help create space for all-day kindergarten students.
In February voters in the Wayzata School District approved a nearly $110 million referendum. Of that, $36 million will be used for a new elementary school.
Until that school is built, Birchview Elementary in Plymouth is moving kindergartners down the street.
Principal Sam Frederickson said that in the year that just ended, he had two half-day kindergarten classes sharing one classroom and a full-day class in another. Another full-day class had to be moved to different school. So this fall, he’s moving all the kindergarten classes a block away to their own wing at Central Middle School.
“In other elementary schools, they might have done something like take a computer lab out of a classroom and turn it into a kindergarten classroom,” he said. “We didn’t have those sorts of spaces to give away.”
Officials in the Mounds View District are taking a different approach. They are preparing the old Snail Lake Elementary School for new life as a kindergarten center. It will house 14 kindergarten classrooms for 300 students. A similar kindergarten center is being prepped in New Brighton. Those students will attend their neighborhood schools in first grade.