New district program draws more students

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 9, 2003

Despite enrollment dropping at about 50 to 80 students every year, the Albert Lea school district received a surprise this week &045; a new section of kindergarten has been added.

Superintendent Dave Prescott said that last spring, the number enrolled in kindergarten was about 235, but by the end of the summer it rose to about 255. The school board’s decision won’t be official until later this month.

Prescott speculated that the new all-day, every-day kindergarten program may have convinced some parents to put their children in public schools as an alternative to private kindergarten.

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He stressed that the addition is possible because voters approved a referendum last fall, which he said demonstrated the community’s commitment to education.

He said generally, enrollment decreases in the first week of school, when schools realize that some students have moved. But he said with kindergarten, the school has been verifying whether students will attend.

It means an unexpected addition to the staff, which has already hired seven new kindergarten teachers to accommodate the new program.

And in a school district that has lost students every year for more than a decade, Lakeview Principal Jean Jordan said hiring a new kindergarten teacher and accommodating yet another class &uot;is a good problem.&uot;

Jen Brist, a kindergarten teacher at Lakeview, said she will be glad to get the new teachers. &uot;I’ll have someone to bounce ideas off of,&uot; she said.

She expects the new all-day, every-day kindergarten to add stability to five-years-olds’ lives and give them more opportunity to learn.

(Contact Tim Sturrock at tim.sturrock or 379-3438.)