The White Bear Lake Area Public Schools has made a late move to offer free all-day, every-day kindergarten to families beginning this fall — making it the fourth Washington County area school district to embrace a no-cost plan.

Until now, families had expected to pay $2,700 to enroll students in the district’s current fee-based, all-day program. But the school board decided on March 11 to make an all-day option free to everyone.

All-day kindergarten will be available at each of the district’s eight elementary sites. A half-day option also will be offered at Matoska International IB World School and at Hugo, Lincoln and Otter Lake elementary schools, the district said.

Board Member Lori Swanson said in a news release that providing free all-day kindergarten “is something we as a board have wanted to do for a number of years. Administration has diligently worked to build a sustainable financial plan that will support the rich curricular opportunities for our students.”

An all-day program is expected to give students greater access to specialists in the areas of music, media, physical education and world language. In addition, the district envisions the all-day strategy as a way to meet its goal of having children be proficient in reading and math by the fourth grade.

Kindergarten information is available at the district’s website.

The North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District has offered free all-day kindergarten for seven years. It reports that 82.5 percent of third-graders who attended all-day kindergarten in the district were proficient in math in 2012, compared with 69 percent of students who did not attend kindergarten in the district. Free all-day kindergarten also is available in the Stillwater Area Public Schools.

Last December, the Forest Lake Area Schools agreed to spend about $500,000 to make all-day kindergarten free to everyone beginning in 2013-14.

The developments leave the South Washington County and Mahtomedi school districts as the only local public school systems to continue to charge for all-day programs.


Cottage Grove

Park High hoopsters join to fight diabetes

Members of the Park High School boys’ and girls’ basketball teams raised more than $4,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) during a February fundraiser that included a “Free Throw-A-Thon.”

Larissa Lurken, a guard on the girls’ team, led all players with a 92 percent free throw completion percentage, according to a South Washington County news release.

The teams also sold JDRF shoes and T-shirts during school lunch periods and before home games.

The district said the teams have raised more than $8,400 in the two years they’ve worked on behalf of JDRF. All proceeds go to helping find a cure for type 1 diabetes.

Information about how to get involved is available on the group’s website.



Hill-Murray grads aid theater project

“Don’t Shoot the Masseuse,” an original comedy by the brother-and-sister team of Marino and Elizabeth Eccher, is headed to a St. Paul stage — funded in part by the duo’s fellow Hill-Murray High School alumni.

A Kickstarter fundraising campaign hit its $3,300 goal in less than a week, with about $2,455 coming from the Hill-Murray community, a news release said.

Marino Eccher, a 2004 graduate who now is a reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, said in the release that he thought it might take a month to raise the money, but he was happy to be wrong by 24 days.

Although the goal was met, the campaign will continue until April 3. According to the Kickstarter page, renting and insuring the venue cost about $2,500, leaving a need for additional funding for costumes, props, a set and marketing.

Performances are scheduled for June 14-16 and June 21-22 at the Historic Mounds Theatre, 1029 Hudson Road.

A free preview for seniors will be held on June 13.

Anthony Lonetree