KUSD to launch free kindergarten program<BR>

All-day, no-cost kindergarten will be implemented next school year throughout the Kingman Unified School District.

That decision was reached Tuesday night during a meeting of the district governing board on the recommendation of Betsy Parker, assistant superintendent.

Two parents concerned about making all-day kindergarten mandatory and removing the half-day option available this year addressed the board.

"We're concerned that there may be some children that are not ready for all-day kindergarten," Terri McMullen said.

"Our other concerns would be funding and class sizes.

Mrs.

Parker told us it would be 18 (students per class), but look at the count and it means 25.

That's a lot of children at that level, so the program would not work effectively with counts that high."

Debbie Stephens told the board she had daughters go through kindergarten when it was half-day only who were ready for an all-day program.

Stephens also said she had sons enrolled when the all-day option was offered who were not ready for it.

"We should have the option," Stephens said.

"Children should be at the same level (of learning), but that doesn't always happen.

"If they're not ready for (all-day), they won't have a good experience and it will be hard to get their attitude turned around."

Stephens also asked whether grants be available on an on-going basis to pay for all–day kindergarten.

The state Department of Education pays reimbursement for half-day kindergarten for all students.

KUSD began offering optional all-day classes this school year with parents paying a monthly tuition of $120-$140 per child, depending on when the student enrolled.

Parker said Title I funding "never goes away."

She told the board arrangements would be worked out for children whose parents only want them to attend kindergarten on a half-day basis next school year.

But she expects those numbers to be small.

"We've sent out 5,000 notices (about all-day kindergarten) already to every student in grades K, 1, 2, and 3 in each of our buildings and to six preschools," Parker said.

"No one has come back and said they don't want their child to attend."

The school board also discussed the neighborhood schools concept whereby seventh- and eighth-grade courses are offered to students at Palo Christi Elementary School in downtown Kingman and Black Mountain Elementary School in Golden Valley.

Mike Ford, district superintendent, recommended keeping those students at those schools next year instead of the district busing them to Kingman Junior High School.

Principals Scott Rhoades of Black Mountain and Diana Logas of Palo Christi addressed the board on how the programs are going at their schools.

Rhoades said one meeting with parents was held Jan.

16 and another is planned later this month to hear concerns and answer questions.

"We have a lot of room at Black Mountain, whereas Kingman Junior High is at or near (student) capacity," Rhoades said.

"As far as financial considerations, I'm not sure there would be any difference (in busing students to the junior high school)."

Ford told the board Black Mountain has implemented an intramural program to offer some after-school activities, one of the arguments often heard for students to attend the junior high school.

Logas said concerns of students leaving Palo Christi for the junior high school was one reason the neighborhood schools program began last year.

"It gives our students two more years to spend with us getting a little more nurturing," Logas said.

Palo Christi students are bused to the junior high school this year for such sports as basketball and volleyball, Logas said.

The board will vote next month about keeping seventh- and eighth-graders at Black Mountain and Palo Christi next year.

If the recommendation of Ford is accepted, parents could still send their student to the junior high school under the open-enrollment policy.

But parents would have to arrange transportation.

In one other matter, the board approved naming the auditorium at Kingman High School North as the "Hilda Aguilar Center for Performing Arts."

Aguilar was in her 27th year of teaching English and drama in the district when she died last month of complications from pneumonia.