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“It worked out quite well in that the board chose not to liquidate those buildings,” said Superintendent Dan Hooverman.
Under the plan, two elementaries — Island Lake and Turtle Lake — will send their kindergartners to Snail Lake Education Center, while the Pike Lake Education Center will house kindergarten students from Bel Air, Pinewood, Sunnyside and Valentine Hills. To make room for the kindergartners, the district will lease space for the emotionally and behaviorally disturbed students it now serves at Snail Lake, as well as moving a few other community programs now housed in the two centers.
The district will do things like use school colors and logos to connect the kindergartners to the elementaries they would otherwise have attended, Hooverman said. Principals will also make regular appearances at the two kindergarten centers, which will be run by site administrators.
“We’ve heard some concerns, but not a lot,” Hooverman said of the plan. “Some parents just want to make sure we’re still going to offer half-day kindergarten.”
Full-day K a popular idea
By law, schools must continue to offer half-day kindergarten programs. But surveys conducted by schools in recent months overwhelmingly indicate that most parents will request the full-day kindergarten option next year.
In Hopkins, a survey indicated that 89 percent of prospective kindergarten parents will choose full-day.
Diane Schimelpfenig, the district’s director of teaching and learning, said each of its elementaries has enough space to accommodate all-day kindergarten, with some modifications.
For example, Meadowbrook Elementary is at capacity, spurring the district last spring to purchase the nearby Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, which will house some third-grade classes and early childhood programs. That building will be connected to Meadowbrook via a tunnel.
Making that move will free up additional space in the elementary, which will help benefit all grade levels, including kindergarten. “I feel comfortable saying we’ll have sufficient space of all kinds next year,” Schimelpfenig said.
Less problematic in central cities
The funding of all-day kindergarten has had little effect on the state’s two largest school districts. St. Paul has been offering free all-day kindergarten since 2006, while Minneapolis offers it at most of its elementaries.
Five elementaries in southwest Minneapolis, however, currently offer a mix of fee-based all-day kindergarten and free half-day options. To accommodate the expansion of free full-day offerings, some minor building modifications will be made, school officials said this week.
That might mean adding a wall in one classroom or using an addition in a different way, said LeAnn Dow, the district’s enrollment project manager.
“In one situation, you have a classroom that’s being used in the morning, but not the afternoon,” she said.
Kim McGuire • 612-673-4469