Full-time kindergarten remains popular despite tuition charges | AspenTimes.com

Full-time kindergarten remains popular despite tuition charges

Eben Harrell

Almost all of this year’s kindergarten class will attend school full time despite the Aspen School District’s controversial decision to charge tuition for students attending more than a half day of school.Aspen Elementary School Principal Robin Whitacre told the school board last night that of the 94 students currently enrolled for kindergarten this year, only four plan to attend half-day classes.Facing a budget shortfall of nearly $1 million last April, the district decided to charge tuition for full-time kindergarten students beginning this school year. The state only reimburses schools for a half day of kindergarten.The decision was made despite the protests of several teachers and parents, who argued full-time kindergarten is crucial for development and worried that tuition would cause many parents to choose the half-day option.Whitacre said the high enrollment of full-time students speaks to the excellence of Aspen’s kindergarten teachers as well as the importance the community places on early education. She also said the parents of half-day students would eventually be convinced to send their children full time.”I think by Christmas we are going to end up with everyone going to school full time. This will end up being a feather in our cap,” Whitacre said.In the interim, she said the four half-day students will attend school together in the same class, to make teaching a separate lesson plan easier on the teachers. They will also stay for a full day of classes, but miss school on alternating days.Starting this year, parents will pay $200 a month for full-day classes, unless they have other children in early education or are district employees, in which case they will pay $100 a month. Families that qualify for the federal government’s free or reduced lunch programs are charged $50 a month. Whitacre also said applications are being accepted to fill five out-of-district spaces in this year’s kindergarten class. Last year, the school board mandated that elementary classes not exceed an average of 16 to 18 students, thereby putting a cap on out-of-district enrollment.Whitacre said the current average for next year’s kindergarten is 15.8 students per class, leaving room for five more out-of-district students (12 out-of-district students have already enrolled).High school principal Kendall Evans said there is also room for approximately 15 out-of-district students in the high school. Classes at Aspen High must not exceed an average of 20 to 22 students.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com

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