1B Goodhue School District compromises on kindergarten
By Dawn Schuett
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
GOODHUE — An ongoing debate over all-day, every-day kindergarten in the Goodhue School District has ended with a compromise.
Rather than continuing the all-day, everyday program implemented last fall on a trial basis, the school board voted 4-1 Monday to adopt a three-day-a-week kindergarten program with an optional fourth day. Starting in the 2008-09 school year, parents may enroll their children for three days a week the entire year, four days the entire year or three days for half the year and four days the other half.
"We’re trying to give parents plenty of options here," Superintendent Robert Bangtson said Tuesday.
The issue divided opinions of district residents and school board members for "multiple reasons," Bangtson said.
While many supported all-day, every-day kindergarten, others opposed it for financial reasons or because it seemed too intense for children.
The combination of those two factors led Leann Husband, a mother of six whose youngest son will enter kindergarten in the fall, to favor a kindergarten program with fewer days in the week.
"I believe my son would be way to overwhelmed with five days," Husband said.
The district would be better served spending money to make sure its high school students are ready to graduate and for college, she said.
Bangtson said the district will save about $90,000 in personnel costs by switching from all-day, every-day kindergarten.
Goodhue School Board member Ann Buck said she doesn’t support all-day, every-day kindergarten because research shows no long-term benefits from it. It would be more beneficial for the district to enhance its reading program, she said.
Heather Schafer and her husband, Brian, prefer all-day, every-day kindergarten because they’ve seen the difference it’s made for their son with his reading skills and social development. Their son, who is in kindergarten, is the oldest of their three children.
"We have been amazed by the progress our son has made this year," Heather Schafer said, adding that children thrive on the consistency of all-day, every-day kindergarten.
Although the board’s decision isn’t what she hoped for, Schafer said it’s an improvement over what existed a year ago when the number of days varied from two to three each week.
"I’m trying to look at it positively, however, I’m still saddened they couldn’t find a better compromise," she said.
Michelle Goodman, the mother of a 3-year-old and a 2-year-old and a strong supporter of all-day, every-day kindergarten, said it was "frustrating to see the board not accept the good in this program."
She plans to keep advocating for it.
Despite the conflict created by the issue, the superintendent said he hopes people can now support the board’s decision and "continue working together for the education of their kids."