Free Full-Day Kindergarten in Kirkwood's Future?

School board member Heidi Meckes tells parents tuition-free, full-day kindergarten is the goal.

The Kirkwood School Board is committed to offering free full-day kindergarten to all district children, but the timetable for that has not been set.

That’s the message school board member Heidi Meckes brought to the PTO meeting on Wednesday night.

“We are committed to this. It’s just a matter of how we can get this done and when,” Meckes said.

Currently, the offers free half-day kindergarten and tuition-based, full-day kindergarten. But Meckes said research showed students who attended full-day kindergarten were better prepared academically.

She said the curriculum for both full and half-day kindergarten was the same, but it was more difficult to cover the material for half-day students, putting them at a disadvantage once they reach first grade.

“They have to be ready,” she said.

One issue holding Kirkwood back has been space. But now that construction projects supported by the passage of Prop 1 are under way, . Previously, some students had to go to other elementary schools in the district for their kindergarten year.

Meckes said that free full-day kindergarten had been a priority of administrators for several years but that the board still needed to figure out how that would look and how it would be paid for. Currently, the district gets about $400,000 from full-day tuition, which costs parents about $3,600 a year.

Some parents at the meeting said they were dismayed to find that Kirkwood was one of only five school districts in the state that did not offer free full-day kindergarten. Recently the Parkway School District instituted free full-day kindergarten.

Meckes urged parents at the PTO meeting to attend school board meetings to share their thoughts on the issue.

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