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School board approves tuition-free full-day kindergarten

At its January 12 meeting, the Parkway Board of Education approved a tuition-free, full-day kindergarten program for all students beginning with the 2011-12 school year. Parkway currently provides optional full-day kindergarten with an annual tuition fee of $3,520. 

The change was recommended by a kindergarten study group that included early childhood educators, teachers, parents, counselors, special educators, literacy coaches, curriculum coordinators and administrators. Their work centered on studying best practices in a successful full-day kindergarten program that combines academically high standards while also honoring the individual development of each child.

“We are pleased we can offer full-day kindergarten to Parkway families without tuition and that our team has found a way to do it without adding to the bottom line,” said Board President Bruce Major. Major also expressed thanks to the Project Parkway volunteers who helped develop the proposal.

The annual cost to offer full-day kindergarten is approximately $2.65 million, but will be funded within the current budget through a re-prioritization process that will not cause any reduction in services to students.

The Parkway Board of Education studied full-day kindergarten as part of the Project Parkway strategic planning effort. It is the first in a series of proposals intended to support Parkway’s new mission, vision and long-range plan.

Key factors supporting the board’s decision include:

  • The amount of research pointing to the positive outcomes of full-day kindergarten is substantial;
  • Benchmark data from local, national and international sources indicate a clear trend supporting full-day kindergarten for overall student success;
  • Since 1979, the percentage of U.S. kindergartners enrolled in full-day programs has risen from 25 percent to more than 70 percent;
  • The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recommends full-day kindergarten. All but a handful of Missouri’s 523 public school districts now offer it;
  • In a survey of Parkway parents, 80 percent of respondents expressed support for a full-day program and elementary principals unanimously endorse it; and
  • Kindergarten teachers expressed concern over their ability to effectively teach the curriculum to students in the half-day program compared with students enrolled in the full-day program.

“This change represents a lot of hard work by hundreds of Parkway community members who volunteered to help through Project Parkway,” said Superintendent Don Senti. “There is still a lot of work to do, but this recommendation is a great first start because it makes sense for kids.”

For more information including copies of all Project Parkway task force reports and recommendations, go to www.parkwayschools.net and click on Project Parkway.

Kindergarten registration begins February 15. For more information, go to http://www.pkwy.k12.mo.us/eNews/storyDetail.cfm?thisStory=Yellow&IssueID=78 .