School board ponders all-day preschool
With the state lawmakers debating whether to legislate all-day preschool in public schools, the Osakis School Board used the topic for its Monday, April 10, 5:30 p.m. work session. The session preceded the regular April board meeting at 6 p.m.
Elementary Principal Shad Schmidt introduced preschool teacher Tera Larson, along with kindergarten teachers Sara Anderson, Katie Ferris and Lisa Steinert, whom Schmidt termed "the experts" on the topic.
Anderson told the School Board that registration was recently held and, "the numbers for next year are at the highest that they have been at this point for the fall term." She said one or two new students are being added each week.
The teachers stressed that preschool and kindergarten programs have evolved. Today, preschoolers are learning what was taught in kindergarten in the past. Kindergarten has evolved with no nap time, and work is taught that was formerly presented in first grade.
"We're rushing kids. It's the day and age we live in," preschool teacher Jan Campbell commented in written comments. She did not attend the meeting.
The Osakis kindergarten program presently is held Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 to 11 a.m. or noon to 3 p.m. for children ages 4 to 5 who are entering kindergarten.
Tuesday and Thursday classes are offered for 3 and 4 year olds from 8 to 11 a.m. or noon to 3 p.m.
The charge is $100 for the MWF, or $70 for Tu-Th attendance. There is a financial aid program in place.
There is no district mid-day transportation schedule in place now. Children can ride the bus to school at the regular time in the morning and return home on the regular bus in the afternoon. The students can use the mid-day bus at a cost of $1 per ride.
It was pointed out that it is expensive for parents to have to pay for preschool, as well as day care, because most day care programs charge for a full week whether the child attends or not.
Full-day preschool could end up being "free day care" for some parents, it was noted during the discussion.
"You'd have to have guidelines," said board member Monika Klimek.
After-school programs such as Latch Key could be used in lieu of day care after school hours.
Children are already registered for the 2017-18 pre-school program, it was pointed out when the board was discussing just when full-day preschool could be put in place.
Busing mid-day could result in increased enrollment in the preschool program.
Schmidt will meet with the teachers to design a flyer advertising the school district's preschool program as a recruitment technique. About 60 to 70 percent of kindergarten students have attended the Osakis preschool program. The others have attended programs in other districts and schools.
No official action was taken during the work session.
This legislative session, Gov. Mark Dayton is proposing that the state use some of its $1.65 billion surplus to provide $175 million to expand preschool programs in Minnesota.