Kindergarten tuition OK’d | AspenTimes.com
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Kindergarten tuition OK’d

Eben Harrell

The Aspen School District will start charging for full-day kindergarten next year, but the charges will be less than previously considered, the school board decided last night.

The charges represent a one-year pilot program to be evaluated after next year by a district task force.

Parents will be charged $200 a month for full-day classes, less than the $320 a month proposed by officials last month.

Parents who have other children in kindergarten or preschool, and parents who are district employees, will be charged $100 a month. Families that qualify for the federal government’s free or reduced lunch programs will be charged $50 a month.

Superintendent Diana Sirko will decide in the coming weeks whether to charge full price for families above a certain income level, even if they have other students in kindergarten or preschool.

Officials estimate the tuition will bring in approximately $95,000 next year.

In response to the announcement in March of a nearly $1 million budget deficit, Sirko floated the idea of introducing tuition for a full day of kindergarten. The state government only reimburses schools for a half day of kindergarten. Aspen had traditionally picked up the costs of the extra half day.

Parents responded to the news with concern, particularly over the small period of time to prepare for the unexpected expense.

Sirko said picking up part of the cost of full-day kindergarten should lessen the burden on parents next year.

“For people who were concerned that they would not have an adequate chance to plan for this new expense, this softens the blow,” Sirko told the board.

Board members agreed unanimously to institute the charges, but reiterated their hope that parents will choose a full day of kindergarten despite the tuition. Board members cited studies showing half-day students to be significantly behind their classmates entering first grade.

Board member Fred Peirce went so far as to say he would vote to abolish tuition next year if it increased the numbers of half-day students.

“I’m going to support this, but I’m going to do so with hesitation,” he said. “If more than 10 percent of children don’t do a full day next year, I think we should go back to full funding.”

Parents choosing the half-day option next year will send their students to school for full days, but only on Mondays, Wednesday and alternating Fridays.

Elementary school Principal Robin Whitacre remained optimistic after the decision, saying her staff will ensure all students have basic skills entering first grade. She also said no kindergarten teachers will lose their jobs because of the decision.

Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com


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