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Kirkwood Kindergarten Students Will Come Home in 2012

The passage of Prop 1 means Kirkwood can build enough kindergarten classrooms for all its students and stop busing within the district.

For more than 10 years, North Glendale, Robinson and Keysor elementary schools have not had enough space to accommodate all their kindergarten students. That will change thanks to the passage of Prop 1 on Nov. 2.

The $33.5 million bond issue will fund construction of new classrooms for the elementary schools, as well as building improvements for certain middle schools. The Kirkwood School District will solicit bids for the construction in March.

The bond issue will not require additional taxes and will be repaid with money already budgeted for the repayment of debt. 

Some kindergarten students at Keysor and Robinson are being bused to and all kindergarten students from North Glendale are bused to Tillman Elementary. The students then return to their home buildings for first grade.

"It is important for students to begin their educational experience in their home school to avoid having to relearn a school culture, which includes meeting school staff, learning the building layout, procedures and expectations,"  said Deborah Holmes, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

Kindergarten teacher Trisha Yettke said busing students who would normally attend North Glendale to her classroom at Tillman works well and that she doesn't even know which students aren't from the neighborhood. Although all the students are welcome in her classroom, she admits that allowing children to attend their home school would ultimately be better for them.

"It would be less transition on them, and they could stay with that group of friends," she said.

Kirkwood officials plan to have the new kindergarten classrooms ready for the 2012-13 school year. The district does not see the need to hire additional kindergarten teachers and will instead move existing teachers to new locations. Removing future kindergarten students from Westchester and Tillman will also free up valuable classroom space in those buildings.

Proposed additions for Keysor, Robinson and North Glendale will also include a new gym and a new cafeteria/multipurpose room.

Kevin Herweck, a Kirkwood parent who also served on the campaign committee to pass Prop 1, has four children: two at North Glendale, a kindergartner at Tillman and a preschooler at home. He says the half-sized gym at North Glendale is so small it's standing room only when a single grade puts on a school musical.

"It's like shooting a three-pointer at the half-court line," he said.

The school's cafeteria is equally undersized and can only handle one grade at a time. "My daughter's lunch begins at 1:20 p.m.," Herweck said. His fifth-grade daughter, who starts class at 8:30 a.m., has the last lunch shift.

Money from Prop 1 will also be used to add new science classrooms to North Kirkwood and Nipher middle schools. Many science students are being taught in standard classrooms without lab space. The science labs that do exist are more than 50 years old, lack gas lines and need to be modernized, according to Holmes.

"The construction of new science rooms will bring much needed space, amenities, and instructional opportunities for our teachers and students," Holmes said. "We are currently meeting with science teachers to design the exact details."

The addition for each building is still in the conceptual phase. Plans for the proposed construction can be viewed at the Kirkwood school website.

Prop 1 passed with nearly 59 percent of voter approval. Voters did not approve Prop 2, a separate bond issue that would have raised taxes by 4.5 cents per $100 in assessed value to build a new high school aquatic center, improve Lyon's Stadium and upgrade athletic fields throughout the district.

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