By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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Chimacum, Brinnon and Port Angeles school districts will add all-day kindergarten classes this fall, said district personnel.
The Port Townsend district failed to qualify for the low-income-based funding program. The Sequim district can’t take advantage of it because it lacks the space and required facilities.
Four Peninsula public school districts — Cape Flattery, Crescent, Quilcene and Quillayute Valley — will continue to provide all-day kindergarten classes as they have done in the past.
Chimacum Elementary School now has 66 kindergartners signed up for the new year and is hiring another teacher to offer three full classes of 22 students, but if more students register late in the summer or at the start of the school year, the district may need to add a fourth teacher at the last minute, said Art Clarke, district business manager.
The district had a plan to begin offering a full-day parent-pay kindergarten session this fall and had 25 students signed up, but state funding will eliminate the need for those parents to be charged, Clarke said.
“This is exciting to offer it to all kids — and funded by the state,” he said.
About 44 percent of the state’s schools are eligible for full-day kindergarten funding this year, including most schools on the Peninsula.
Previously, the state funded an all-day program only for the poorest 21 percent of schools.
It increased that percentage to the poorest 43.75 percent of schools under the 2013-2015 biennium budget.
Kathryn Mueller, kindergarten teacher at the Brinnon district, which serves students in kindergarten-through-eighth-grade, said that the district superintendent, Wally Lis, told her this week that she will teach a full-day kindergarten class in the coming school year.
Lis was not available for comment.
The Port Townsend School District does not qualify and is in the 51st percentile in the state for free and reduced-priced lunches, said Sara Bonneville, district manager of fiscal services.
The district now offers an optional full-day class paid for by parents on a sliding-scale rate, Bonneville said.
“Our district is not very close [to qualifying],” she said.
The funding program is expected to expand to more districts in the future, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
“State funding for full-day kindergarten is being phased in, beginning with schools that have the highest percentage of students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunches,” said state Superintendent Randy Dorn.
“In addition, once a school receives funding, the school remains eligible for funding in subsequent years, regardless of changes in the school’s percentage of students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches,” he added.
Parents and guardians of students are being asked by the affected districts to register new students early so they can plan for them — hiring additional teachers and purchasing supplies for the new classrooms.
Children must be 5 years old by Sept. 1 to enroll in kindergarten for the 2013-2014 school year.
“We are thrilled the state will now fund full-day kindergarten for Port Angeles schools. We know this is great news for our students and for our families,” Superintendent Jane Pryne said.
The Port Angeles School District has immediately begun preparing to double the number of kindergarten classrooms in the district.
“Principals and administrators are now adjusting 2013-2014 school plans to accommodate the full-day program,” Pryne said.
“We’ll be hiring additional teachers and contacting parents or guardians who have already registered their student for the fall,” she added.
Those who have not registered their kindergarten students at the five Port Angeles elementary schools should do so at their neighborhood schools when office staff return after school offices open Aug. 14 or phone district staff at 360-457-8575.
The Sequim School District is unable to expand its kindergarten programs because of space constraints and is planning to offer such programs after construction at the schools for the 2014-2015 school year, said Brian Lewis, business manager for the Sequim School District.
The district now has four classes of half-day kindergarten at each elementary school — Greywolf and Helen Haller — splitting the students between morning and afternoon classes in a single classroom per school.
Greywolf has room to expand the kindergarten program to house an all-day class, but Helen Haller’s available classroom space isn’t configured for kindergarten use, which is required to have restrooms, a sink and running water, Lewis said.
The necessary work is expected to be completed for the 2014-2015 school year, he said.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.