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Beaverton School District prepares for free full-day kindergarten

Data sought on costs, interest in half-day classes

An Oregon Senate bill passed in 2011 will bring tuition-free, full-day kindergarten to the Beaverton School District, but it’s going to take some time to determine what the program will look like, its cost and how many families are actually interested in it as opposed to existing half-day sessions.

A short discussion of the topic at Monday night’s School Board meeting raised more questions than it answered, but indicated the program would be a reality in the 2015-16 school year.

The teaching and learning division is collaborating with human resources, the district’s business office, community involvement and information technology departments to shape the program’s rollout.

“We’ve been discussing the potential for the last four years,” said Brenda Lewis, the district’s executive administrator for elementary schools and Title I programs, noting kindergarten enrollment has continued to grow. “It’s a common topic of conversation ... We’ve really pulled things together this fall and are coordinating with other departments to bring this to fruition.”

Passed by the Legislature in 2011, Senate Bill 248 requires Oregon school districts to offer half-day kindergarten and authorizes full-day sessions in the 2015-16 school year.

In addition to half-day kindergarten offered throughout the district, tuition-based, full-day kindergarten is available this year at 23 of its 33 elementary schools. Most parents pay a $425 monthly fee with about 220 of the 773 students receiving waivers based on financial needs.

District officials are compiling information on what the program’s needs will be, including how many parents are interested in full-day versus half-day sessions, classroom capacity and staffing as well as required materials.

“All-day kindergarten will be a discussion (of issues) we’ll need to mention probably several times,” said Superintendent Jeff Rose. “There will be discussions on how to collect the data, and how we will accommodate (projected students). The conversation will obviously be continuing.”

Costs, he added, are “difficult to assess right now ... We’re not just looking at the number of students, but (also) at furniture, curriculum and other costs.”

Parents will be able to register their children in November for next year’s kindergarten classes.

Board member Anne Bryan expressed concern about the numerous pieces that needed to fall into place by next fall, including the location of classrooms.

“We can’t be waiting for all these things to happen,” she said.

District Deputy Superintendent Carl Mead reassured board members that a plan is forthcoming, and that classes would only take place in brick-and-mortar facilities.

“We will have a full-scale plan definitely by the next (board) meeting,” he said. “One thing I’ll say is that we will not have kindergarten in a portable (classroom).”

In other items, several parents expressed concern about the district’s building-use fee policy creating confusion and barriers for certain groups involved in after-school activities. They asked the board to clarify what groups, such as for-profit and non-profit, are exempt from fees.

Emphasizing the board’s support for after-school enrichment programs, Board Chairwoman Mary VanderWeele indicated the board would look into the matter.

The next board meeting will be held on Monday, Nov. 17, at 6:30 p.m. at the District Administration Center, 16550 S.W. Merlo Road.