Kennewick’s Lincoln, Southgate, Sunset View and Cascade elementary schools will get full day kindergarten next year — whether the state Legislature decides to fund the additional schools or not.
The Kennewick School Board decided Wednesday in a 3-2 vote to move forward with implementing full-day kindergarten at those schools.
That means Kennewick will need eight more kindergarten teachers next year, said Kennewick Superintendent Dave Bond.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget did not provide any new funding for full-day kindergarten, instead focusing on providing lower class sizes, Bond said. But both Senate and House budgets provide funding to add full-day kindergarten at Lincoln, Southgate, Sunset View and Cascade.
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Eight Kennewick elementary schools already have full-day kindergarten. Ridgeview and Cottonwood elementary schools, Kennewick’s last two schools without full-day kindergarten, likely would be funded in the 2016-17 school year, he said.
A final state budget may not be approved until July and officials are being told everything is back on the table, Bond said. But waiting that long to decide whether to add the kindergarten classes could put the district in a bind.
“I want to support full day kindergarten in all of our schools,” said Dawn Adams, school board president.
School board Ben Messinger, who voted against the implementation, said moving forward with full-day kindergarten for those four schools now is a gamble.
Paying for those positions could cost the school district $600,000 to $700,000, said Vic Roberts, executive director of business operations.
But Adams said they’ve talked about moving to full-day kindergarten to add to student learning and instruction time.
“Educating our students is our job,” she said.
School board member Ron Mabry, who also opposed the action, said he isn’t against full day kindergarten, but the school board also is a steward of the public’s money. He suggested delaying the decision to a later meeting. The next meeting is not planned until June.
It is not as much of a risk as it sounds because the school district has the ability to pay for the new teaching positions out of its savings if needed, said Heather Kintzley, school board vice president.
And it’s likely the school district will receive the additional funding for full-day kindergarten since it was in both House and Senate budgets, she said. The worst case scenario is the school district may get funding for three schools and not four, Bond said.
The decision will allow the school district to look for the additional kindergarten teachers that will be needed now, Bond said, That will give the district more choices and will allow building principals figure out how to find space for the added classes.
Even if the school district orders new portables, officials have been told none will be available until January 2016, Bond said. The school district will have ten portables become available with the new Westgate Elementary, but has plans for those.
All four of the elementary schools have been remodeled in recent years and have a computer lab, Bond said. One option is to use that room as a classroom for a year and buy computer carts for the schools to use in the meantime. Others may be able to combine their resource room and learning assistance program room to free up a classroom.
Options also include trying to move the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program classes or not downsizing some currently large third grade classes when they move into fourth grade, he said.
But Bond suggested allowing administration to work with principals to fund the best solution for their school.
The school district won’t have enough room for the last two schools to move to full day kindergarten until fall 2016, he said.