All-day kindergarten unanimously approved

All-day kindergarten unanimously approved by M. Jill Karolevitz All-day kindergarten was unanimously approved Monday night by the Vermillion School Board.

In action that lasted less than 10 minutes, the board voted in favor of a recommendation ��it received from a task force that has been studying the all-day kindergarten concept since December of 1999.

�From my point of view, as I sat on the task force, I gathered that the primary negative was that some parents are reluctant to give up their one-on-one time with their children for that extra half-day,� said Tom Craig, school board president, prior to the vote. �But I also understand that we can accommodate those parents by letting them enroll their children for a half-day, then home school them, or they can hold them out for another year.

�I support the recommendation of the task force,� Craig added.

School board member Nick Merrigan was concerned with space limitations.

�I agree with the recommendation, but I wonder how critical it is to start it this next school year,� he said. �Would we be better off waiting until our facilities are ready?�

�We spent a lot of time talking about that,� said Liz Hogen, director of curriculum and staff development for Vermillion Schools and task force coordinator. �We felt overwhelmingly that we should not hold off for another year.�

�I received many calls from parents who supported all-day kindergarten,� Craig added. �They preferred to go with the hardships in terms of physical accommodations because we still can achieve the academics we�re looking for.�

Initially, for the 2000-2001 school year, all-day, every-day kindergarten classes will be held at Austin Elementary and at the Vermillion Middle School. There will be three classrooms available at Austin.

By the 2001-2002 school year, Austin School will have more rooms for kindergarten classes. Austin�s gym stage will be remodeled to accommodate Title I, Reading Recovery and special education, freeing up the room those classes use now, plus two more will be added on to the building for a total of six kindergarten rooms. The remodeling/construction is estimated to cost $280,000.

At least two more kindergarten teachers will also be hired, but if six sections of kindergarten are needed � depending on student numbers � three would be hired. There are six sections this year for 104 students. Ninety-six kindergartners could possibly attend next year.

With the all-day kindergarten approval, the Vermillion School Board now faces budget decisions regarding future capital outlay expenditures. Craig presented a plan to members of the board that outlined three projects and their costs:

? The additional $621,000 needed to finish the high school construction project;

? A new roof for Jolley School, approved at a cost of $99,000;

? Adding two kindergarten classrooms and remodeling the stage at Austin at an estimated cost of $280,000.

�We�ll need $1 million for all three projects,� Craig said. �And looking at the capital outlay budget for the next few years, I feel we can afford $1 million. But conspicuous in their absence on this list are the air conditioning projects for the high school and Jolley.

�We do have the money to do most of the projects we want to do, but we don�t have enough to do them all,� he added. �We have to prioritize.�

The proposed air conditioning project, along with the possible update of the aged heating system at Jolley School is an issue that has school board members in a quandary.

�I wanted to do the air conditioning project this year,� Merrigan said. �But with all-day kindergarten � adding two new teachers, building two new classrooms and

remodeling the stage � that pretty much changed my mind. I feel we have to wait another year to do it right � adding the air conditioning and replacing the boiler, changing to hot water heat at the same time.�

The capital outlay plan, which Craig presented for his fellow school board members to review, also included suggestions of how the three projects would be paid for, including capital outlay certificates, transferring funds from the general fund to capital outlay fund (prior to July 1 when a new state law will prohibit such action) and redesignating certain budgeted funds.

�I don�t expect any action on this now,� Craig said. �This is something for us to review and talk about at the next meeting. It will also help when we have more information about the air conditioning project.�

Johnson Controls is expected to visit with the board at a later date.

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