Kindergarten, is it worth the cost?

Emma Teson

When walking through North Glendale Elementary School, laughter fills the halls, jump ropes smack the gym floor, students timelapse a 3D printer in the REACH room and kindergarteners line up for recess. But before 2012, kindergarten was not offered at North Glendale. Students had to be bused to Tillman rather than walking to the nearest elementary school near their house. The students who lived in the Glendale area had to adjust to three different environments in three years, according to Dr. Todd Benben, principal of North Glendale. In 2012, the citizens of Kirkwood passed Proposition 1, which provided kindergarten to all students in their home attendance area.

“It was really hard for families who lived in the North Glendale area that they weren’t allowed to start their kindergarten year at North Glendale,” Benben said. “They didn’t want to have their 5-year-old go to another school and get to know that environment and then switch and get to know another environment. They went from their early childhood, if they were in an early childhood department, to Tillman and then to North Glendale, and that’s tough for a young child. They were awesome environments and the kids did great, but for the parent’s sake, it was hard for them. They didn’t trust that it was going to be a good thing.”

Prop 1 provided North Glendale, Robinson and Keysor with facilities to house kindergarten such as new classrooms, renovated libraries, new gyms and remodeled cafeterias. KSD began offering tuition-free, full day kindergarten in the 2012-2013 school year after the Board of Education unanimously approved the proposal, Dec. 11, 2011. according to Dr. Tom Williams, superintendent and Ginger Cayce, KSD communications director.

“I like the fact that if parents felt like they wanted to spend more time with their child, they could send them to half-day because once they started school and they were there all day long, they would not have that opportunity again,” Benben said. “There are some kids who do not have that opportunity with a parent, to spend that time with them and be in a real, rich environment to learn and grow, so there are kids who need to have that opportunity to be with someone full day and to not have a cost attached to it.”

The state of Missouri does not require school districts to offer full-day kindergarten. KSD was one of the last to make the switch to tuition-free due to the requests of the community and the passing of Prop 1, according to Williams. Instead of bringing in $500,000 of tuition every year from then on, the cost of free, full-day kindergarten was $850,000 extra to implement according to KSD.

The enrollment at North Glendale shot up when the kindergarteners arrived and new families moved into the district, and North Glendale went from being the smallest elementary school in the district to one of the largest with about 600 students. Since Proposition A failed Nov. 3, 2015, Benben is concerned about the larger class sizes and decrease in support staff at the school because with the the failure of Proposition A, KSD will let go of 23 support staff members.

“We are fortunate in the fact when you compare what we offer in Kirkwood to some of what the other school districts offer,” Benben said. “Will we still be able to offer support and help to kids? Absolutely. Will it be the same level and the same consistency? No, we won’t be able to do that part. [The decrease in support staff] is a major concern. I don’t know which is more concerning, the larger class sizes or the fact that we will have less support. I think the combination of the two is the biggest frustration and challenge for us. It’s going to make [it] harder to provide the excellence we have provided over the years.”

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