Rose Marie Blair

October 10, 2012

Even though Republican legislators nixed all-day kindergarten earlier this year, Buckeye Valley is still considering moving forward with its own plan … sort of.

Basically, under a proposed program, parents or legal guardians who would want their children enrolled in all-day kindergarten would pay for it. The program would expand an existing optional after-school care the school already provides for paying parents.

All-day kindergarten would give young students extra time to master reading and writing, which is crucial for their future academic success, said Beth Kantner, director of the Buckeye Valley School Age Child Care Program, or SACC.

“I think philosophically, educators believe that if students have more of these academic experiences, it’s going to enhance a child’s ability to excel in school,” Kantner said.

While teachers are supportive of the concept behind all-day kindergarten, the mandatory all-day kindergarten enacted by former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland in 2009 was financially unrealistic, BV Superintendent Jamie Grube said. Many schools are currently struggling to stay in the black because of declining state and local tax revenues and increasing employee benefit costs. As a result, many are considering asking voters to increase local tax rates.

BV, along with every other Delaware County school district, requested in February 2010 that implementation of Strickland’s all-day kindergarten be delayed until 2012 for financial reasons. BV estimated it would cost the district $250,000 to hire new teachers and buy classroom supplies for additional classes for two of its elementary schools.

However, Republican legislators repealed the requirement last February, calling the requirement an unfunded mandate.

What makes the new proposed BV all-day kindergarten program different from the state-required one is that it would be optional, and something only the parents who use it would pay for.

The program would cost $65 dollars a week, although it could be less for families that are economically disadvantaged. It currently costs parents $58 a week to enroll their kindergartners in SACC for a half day.

The new program would focus more on academic learning than the existing one, which is more like basic childcare.

Kantner said participating kindergartners would still attend their half-day in school just like other students. But, they would spend another half-day in SACC, learning under a licensed teacher whose salary would be funded by participating parents’ tuition payments.

In order for the all-day kindergarten proposal to be financially viable, at least 40 students would need to be enrolled — 20 students at West Elementary and 20 students at North Elementary, Kantner said.

The existing federally-funded all-day kindergarten at Buckeye Valley East Elementary would not be affected. East Elementary qualifies for that federal funding because of the number of students that attend there who are impoverished under federal standards.

Kantner submitted a financial plan for the expanded all-day kindergarten to school administration, and discussed her idea with the school board last week. The school board could vote on the proposal as soon as at its next board meeting.

SACC is almost entirely funded through participating parents’ tuition payments, BV Treasurer Sandra Griscom said. And starting in August, the school district will stop paying Kantner’s salary as a cost-saving measure, making SACC completely self-funded.