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Helmut Schmidt, Published May 13 2013

Moorhead considers all-day kindergarten this fall

MOORHEAD – All-day kindergarten could come to Moorhead School District as soon as this fall, if the Legislature and governor cement a deal to fund the initiative starting in 2014.

School board members gave administrators the go-ahead Monday to ready a plan for the district to pay the $1.2 million cost of going to all-day kindergarten in September, if state funding is approved for following years, Assistant Superintendent Wayne Kazmierczak said.

That plan would go to the board at its May 28 meeting, so work on classrooms and hiring additional teachers could get under way immediately if it is approved.

The Legislature appears poised to provide funding for optional all-day kindergarten starting in the 2014-15 school year, under plans put forth by the Senate, House and Gov. Mark Dayton, Kazmierczak said.

Kazmierczak said the district expects 450 students for kindergarten this fall. He estimates 25 more children would enroll in Moorhead schools if all-day kindergarten were offered free.

However, he said it would be wiser to plan to teach up to 500 children.

That would require 22 classrooms, taking nearly 23 students per room.

“It wouldn’t be painless, but we could do it,” Kazmierczak said.

Robert Asp and Ellen Hopkins elementary schools would be able to accommodate six classrooms each, while the Probstfield Center for Education would have 10 kindergarten rooms, documents show.

Moorhead schools offer half-day kindergarten at no charge.

Since the 2009-10 school year, Moorhead has offered a Community Education all-day kindergarten option called Kindergarten Plus (K-plus). The program is fee-based and payment is on a sliding scale.

K-plus has included 58 percent of the district’s kindergarten students each of the past two years, district figures show.

About $1,187,500 is needed to bring all-day kindergarten online now, Kazmierczak said. That money would come from a budget surplus, extra per-pupil funding and other sources.

The district would need to hire 10 kindergarten teachers at $750,000 in salary and benefits. Another two and a half full-time-equivalent teaching positions to cover prep time for the kindergarten hires would cost $187,500.

Another $250,000 would go to construction, furniture, equipment, technology, instructional materials and staff training.

Kazmierczak said if the state pays 90 percent of all-day kindergarten costs, Moorhead would pay about $150,000 to school those students starting in the 2014-15 school year.

Superintendent Lynne Kovash said the all-day plan would allow families to opt out if they wanted their children to be in a half-day kindergarten.

“I think it’s the future of our school district,” board Vice-chairwoman Cindy Fagerlie said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583