Kick-starting kindergarten |

Kick-starting kindergarten

School Board to create all-day committee

Mike McCollum

— Full-day kindergarten in Steamboat Springs moved one step closer to fruition Monday night as the Steamboat Springs School Board decided to create a committee to explore how to implement the program.

JoAnne Hilton-Gabeler, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction, presented to board members a list of nine topics needing further study, including capacity and facilities, impact and competition with existing early childhood services, transportation, curriculum and instruction, funding and impact on Montessori programs.

“I don’t know if a committee would want the board to address all these questions,” board member John DeVincentis said. “I don’t see any of these concerns as a roadblock to getting this done. : I’m willing to turn it over to the committee.”

Hilton-Gabeler proposed including the following people on the committee: Nutritional Services Director Max Huppert, Facilities Director Rick Denney, Transportation Director Ed Dingledine, Finance Director Dale Mellor, a sampling of kindergarten teachers, parents and business representatives, and representatives from local day-care facilities.

DeVincentis urged the board not to put a board representative on the committee because of policy governance principles, while board member Jeff Troeger said the board should make responsibilities clear to committee members.

“Committees do not make decisions; they make suggestions only,” said Troeger, who noted he simply wants a list of pros and cons from the committee.

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“All boards get in trouble when committees don’t understand their charges,” he said. “You get a lot of people who have their feelings hurt if their recommendations are not made by the board. : It is important to tell committees what we are looking for.”

Troeger added that the district shouldn’t be concerned about the impact on private early childhood education centers if the district implements all-day kindergarten.

“My point is we should be doing what is best for the kids and not what is best for private competition out there,” he said. “I feel pretty strongly about that.”

It is not mandatory to attend or provide kindergarten in Colorado. The Steamboat Springs School District offers half-day kindergarten classes that begin in the morning and in the afternoon. There are 118 students in half-day kindergarten programs at Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools.

The Hayden and South Routt school districts offer full-day kindergarten. The Hayden program costs parents $7 a day, and the South Routt program is free.

Board members previously said expanding the program from half-day to full-day would cost an additional $200,000 per year. Funding options for implementing the program in Steamboat include fees, money from the city’s half-cent sales tax that generates revenues for the Education Fund Board, grants and state funds.

All five candidates for the School Board have said they favor all-day kindergarten, and the School Board has expressed its support of such a program.

Interim Superintendent Sandra Smyser provided a timeline to board members that proposed having a committee in place by November and a decision on how to implement all-day kindergarten by March.

“We also need to get Mr. Mellor to get some good and accurate figures on what it costs,” she said. “What I don’t want to happen is for us to philosophically do something because we think it’s a great idea, but then later we have a huge financial oops.”

– To reach Mike McCollum, call 871-4208

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