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AUSTIN EDITION Catholic schools agree to lease space to district

By Tim Ruzek

truzek@postbulletin.com

All-day kindergarten became a much stronger possibility for Austin Public Schools this past weekend.

Queen of Angels Catholic Church will allow the school district to lease space, Superintendent Candace Raskin said today.

The district wants to move its community programming from Woodson School to Queen of Angels School. Woodson then would become a center for all-day kindergarten.

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"All-day kindergarten for our students and our community is such a wonderful thing to be able to move forward," Raskin said, "and so I'm just thrilled because I know this is going to impact the achievement level of our students."

Raskin said she heard the parish announced the decision at church Sunday.

Austin Area Catholic Schools officials were unavailable for comment.

Last week, Norm Blaser, administrator for Pacelli High School, said he anticipated big changes in the private system's kindergarten through sixth grade programming if leasing was approved.

All of the Queen of Angels students, who are in fourth through sixth grades, will have to be moved to the St. Augustine/St. Edward Elementary School and possibly Pacelli High School, Blaser said.

This year Pacelli took in seventh- and eighth-grade students from Queen of Angels.

The Catholic schools started an all-day kindergarten program in the fall.

Raskin said she plans to take a proposal to the Austin School Board work session Jan. 24 to move forward with all-day kindergarten.

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If the parish hadn't agreed to lease the space, Raskin said, she would've taken the all-day kindergarten idea from consideration for offering next school year.

"This is really good news because the more I looked into separating Adult Basic Education from the other programming that happens at Woodson, it really affects their family literacy program," Raskin said, noting it is successful particularly for those with English as a second language.

Moving the community programs to Queen of Angels will allow them to do needed expansion, Raskin said.

District officials now will work on the details of a lease agreement and other facilities needs required for a public school facility. Raskin said she's looking for a three- to five-year lease agreement.

"We want to make a commitment that we're going to have this happen," she said.

Raskin said she thinks it could take all summer to make the transition.

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