Kindergarten program up in air

The future of an all-day kindergarten program for Hayden students should be clearer Wednesday, when Hayden Valley Elementary School Principal Mike Luppes makes his recommendation to the School Board.

Luppes has yet to decide what his recommendation will be, he said Thursday.

"There's numerous problems and issues," Luppes said.

At the heart of those issues is the affordability of the program for the district and Hayden families.

Colorado public schools receive funding only for half-day kindergarten programs, leaving the remaining costs to school systems, families or a combination of the two. Hayden Valley Elementary School now offers two half-day kindergarten sessions, one from 8:15 to 11:05 a.m. and the other from 12:15 to 3:05 p.m.

The district doesn't have funds to pay for an all-day program, and many Hayden families can't afford the estimated $6 to $8 a day an all-day program would cost, Luppes said. During the course of a school year, the daily rate would add up to between $996 and $1,328 per student.

An all-day program for all Hayden students would necessitate two classes, and thus an additional full-time teacher. That would cost the district an estimated $20,000, even with parent fees.

An all-day program for about half of Hayden's kindergarten students would require only one class and an additional half-time teacher, whose salary could be fully funded by parent fees for the students in the all-day program.

But creating an all-day program only for the families who want one and can afford to pay for it raises troubling questions regarding providing equal services to all children, Luppes said.

"At this point, (an all-day program) is not real feasible for all kids," he said. "That, to me, is a moral and ethical issue. That's where I've been struggling."

Where there's little question, Luppes said, is the impact a full-day program would have on the intellectual and social development of Hayden kids.

"I personally believe all-day kindergarten would be great for our kids," he said.

A group of parents is working on ways to provide outside funding assistance for an all-day program, Luppes said.

All-day kindergarten is scheduled as a discussion item at Wednesday's Hayden School Board meeting.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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