Enrollment data compiled by the Minnesota Department of Education show that all-day kindergarten is turning out to be a more popular choice for parents than state officials initially thought.

The data, released by the department last month, show that 57,479 students were enrolled this year in all-day kindergarten programs, about 3,500 more students than the state originally predicted.

"Before we made this important investment, just 54 percent of Minnesota children had access to all-day kindergarten," Gov. Mark Dayton said. "Now, during its first year of implementation, 99.6 percent of kids are getting the great start they need in classrooms across our state. This is outstanding news for our kids, and for our state's future."

In 2013, state lawmakers voted to fund all-day kindergarten. Until then, many school districts charged parents for all-day programming. Those costs could range anywhere from $2,500 to $4,200.

Parents can still opt their children out of full-day kindergarten. Currently, about 238 students are enrolled in half-day programs, the enrollment data shows.

Kim McGuire

Longtime Oakwood principal dies

Dennis Grasmick, the longtime principal of Oakwood Elementary in Plymouth, unexpectedly died Tuesday.

Widely known as "Mr. G.," Grasmick, 61, had worked for Wayzata Public Schools for 15 years. He had been principal at Oakwood Elementary since 2003. Before that, he was a principal at Greenwood Elementary.

Wayzata Superintendent Chace Anderson sent a message to families to inform them the district was putting together a plan to avail counselors and social workers for students or staff members who need their services.

Services for Grasmick will be Monday at 5 p.m. at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 9201 Normandale Blvd. in Bloomington. There will be a time for sharing between 3:30 and 5 p.m. at the church, according to his obituary.

Grasmick is survived by his wife of 39 years, Andrea, and his two children, Andrew and Gabrielle, and their families.

Kim McGuire

Gateway to College aids St. Paul school dropouts

The St. Paul School District and St. Paul College now are part of a national initiative giving high school dropouts and at-risk students help in earning diplomas — and college credits.

This year, the Gateway to College program serves 52 students between the ages of 16 and 20, with 13 taking college-level courses at St. Paul College.

"Many students have life circumstances that prevented them from succeeding before," Superintendent Valeria Silva said in a news release. "Gateway to College will be an important part of our district's strategy."

As part of the program, students receive one-on-one advising and support from teachers who are on special assignment or who act as coaches and mentors.

The effort is made possible through a contract between the district and the Gateway to College National Network and is being funded with help from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, the Corporation for National and Community Service's Social Innovation Fund and the Travelers Foundation.

This program joins a network of 42 Gateway to College programs in the U.S.

Anthony Lonetree