Last Friday, approximately 30 parents gathered in ’s conference room to have a much-anticipated meeting with Tom Williams, superintendent of schools at the district, to discuss the future of half day kindergarten.
Last year, the Kirkwood school board approved the offering of tuition-free, full day kindergarten. A majority of the parents enrolled their children in full day. Those parents who wanted their children to stay half day worried the option would eventually be phased out from the district.
At the meeting, Williams gave parents the current enrollment numbers for kindergarten, broken down by the students enrolled in full day or half day kindergarten. The enrollment numbers, as of March 9, showed 257 students enrolled in full day kindergarten and 29 in the half day option.
The 29 students enrolled in half day are spread throughout different schools; Four are enrolled at , three at , six at , four at and 12 at . Williams explained that in order to have a full day option in a school there had to be at least 15 students enrolled.
“You have to have a certain number of kids to have a certain number of activities, a certain amount of social interaction,” Williams said.
Williams said it was supply and demand issue.
“We want to provide it (half day) if there are enough families interested in it, and the problem is right now that that number keeps moving,” Williams said.
Several parents, however, said they did not understand why the school couldn’t be more flexible and allow kids to stay in their home school. Some said they were unwilling to compromise.
“I feel this is an unacceptable conversation that we are sitting here having,” said Sara King, who is running for the Kirkwood school board in the upcoming April elections and whose children are enrolled in the district. “The fact is that we were promised a home school kindergarten for all of our kids. We were promised a kindergarten at our home school. Period. And I would like to know how it is going to happen.”
Williams said that the school board did not anticipate so many parents would be interested in the full-day kindergarten option when was being considered.
“We anticipated we were going to have closer to an equal amount of people interested in both options,” Williams said.
Williams, however, said he and board believed a full-day kindergarten was the best academic choice for students in the district.
Parents at the meeting disagreed.
“We don’t need kids to be at school more,” one parent said during the meeting. “We need kids to be playing and having fun with their parents more.”
Williams said that regardless of the choice the district made, the ultimate choice lied with the parents. He said a parent could choose to take his child out of class early if they wanted to.
“But if they are pulled out early, what are they going to miss in the afternoon, and why is that OK?” One parent asked.
“Well, as I said, it’s got to be a compromise,” Williams said. “If you don’t want them in the full-day program, then you are making the choice to pull them out.”
“That’s not acceptable to me,” the parent replied.
“It’s not a perfect solution, I understand that, but if these numbers were reversed, we wouldn’t be offering a full-day option either,” Williams said.
At the end of the meeting, Williams said it was still too early to know certainly how many students would be enrolled in each option. He said that the school will survey parents again in April and see if anything changes. If there are enough children enrolled in each school, the half day option would be offered there.
“But really we won’t know until August,” he said.
King asked Williams to understand and remember how dedicated and passionate the group of parents at the meeting were about the kindergarten issue.
“As you are making these decisions please consider the emotions of the parents that came here today,” King said. “Genuinely consider these people at every step of the way to get them a half day kindergarten. Look at every possibility and remember that what we said is what we believe is best for our children.”
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