West-metro schools are eagerly devoting resources to free all-day kindergarten.
Kindergarten registration is either underway or quickly approaching for most west-metro schools, many of which will be offering free all-day sections for the first time next year.
Last spring, legislators appropriated $134 million to pay for all-day kindergarten for the 2014-15 school year. Currently, most west-metro schools offer a mix of fee-based all-day kindergarten and free half-day kindergarten.
But school officials say parents overwhelmingly want free all-day kindergarten. Consequently, many schools have recently decided to shift their resources toward all-day programs. And most no longer will provide midday transportation for parents who choose a half-day option for their child.
By law, schools cannot declare students truant if their parents want them to attend kindergarten only half a day. But many school officials say kindergarten curriculum will be shaped around all-day programs.
“Parents need to know what their child will be missing if they choose to participate in a part-day program,” said Minnetonka Superintendent Dennis Peterson.
Peterson said that in the past, half-day kindergarten was sufficient to prepare students for first grade. But now, the state has clearly signaled a shift in educational standards that emphasizes all-day programs.
“We expect the number [of part-time kindergarten students] to be so small by the end of the school year, they will probably be blended with the other kids,” he said. “We believe most parents are going to want the full curriculum.”
While Minnetonka parents can continue to pick a free part-time option, most of the district’s kindergarten sections will be free all-day programs.
Starting in the 2013-14 school year, the district’s Ready Start Kindergarten, which is geared for students with summer birthdays who might not be ready for kindergarten, will be a full-day program.
Eden Prairie administrators were expected to make a similar recommendation regarding all-day kindergarten on Tuesday night.
About 70 percent of current Eden Prairie kindergartners now attend a fee-based all-day section. All schools currently offer a mix of fee-based all-day and half-day programs.
But a recent survey of parents of students attending half-day sections now indicated that they would choose differently if a price tag weren’t affixed to all-day kindergarten.
“We had about 12 to 13 percent sticking with half-day, but most everyone else would prefer a full-day program,” said Bob Noyed, a district spokesman.
Here is a look at some of the decisions west-metro schools have recently made about kindergarten for the 2014-15 school year.
School leaders decided in November that free all-day kindergarten will be the district’s primary offering. While parents can still choose to have their students attend a half-day program, the district will not provide midday transportation.
Eastern Carver County
Based on parent demand, school officials there have decided not to make any changes to the mix of half-day and all-day kindergarten sections. All-day, however, will be free next year.