Although the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees last week did not officially vote in favor of a full-day kindergarten program for Gardner Bullis School next fall, they all but guaranteed it would be approved at Monday night’s board meeting.
At the Jan. 11 meeting, board members encouraged district officials to continue working toward launching the program. They could not vote on it last week because it was on the agenda as an informational item, but it is expected to be an action item on Monday’s agenda.
The full-day kindergarten program is proposed to reside at Gardner next school year, after this year’s low kindergarten enrollment left the school with only one section of kindergarten.
One of the reasons for addressing the low kindergarten enrollment at Gardner is making sure all district students have sizeable cohort groups, students that go through the school year together.
Anecdotally, board member Doug Smith spoke of his daughter, a sixth-grader at Gardner who is part of the inaugural class. Because in her grade she only has one class as a cohort group, there are only seven girls in sixth grade.
“Socially there will be a strong effect,” Smith said of the kindergarten program’s attracting more students.
Superintendent Tim Justus also cited parent feedback as part of the reason for moving forward with a full-day program.
“We are trying to listen to what the parents are saying and it appears they are looking at longer days,” he said.
Two teachers at Gardner, Amy Lile and Kate Goines, have already stepped up and said they are willing to return to the full-day kindergarten program and drafted a proposal for the board members of what the program would include.
Early estimates of program expense are approximately $20,000-$25,000, the cost of a part-time aide for both of the teachers, though Lile and Goines have offered to run the program without aides if the district needs to run a more cost-neutral program. Justus said that is going to be discussed even after approval of the program.
In Lile and Goines’ proposal, the full-day kindergarten program would begin as a half-day program in August through October and would evolve into a full-day program in November. For Gardner students, there would be no year-round, half-day program available if the board passes the full-day program.
A main reason board members have settled on offering the full-day kindergarten program at Gardner is that there would be no additional facility costs, or need to bring in an extra portable. The school currently has the flex space needed for a full-day program.
The full-day program, once approved by the board, would be available to students living in the Gardner attendance area first, then to others in the district.
The board members will re-examine the Palo Alto Unified School District Memorandum of Understanding to see where those students who live in Los Altos Hills fall under this program.
The district offered a full-day kindergarten pilot program at Gardner before the renovated campus reopened in 2008. The district discontinued the pilot program after three years due to budget issues.
Justus said the district’s goal is to eventually have this program at all schools.
“I think full day is in the future for all parents to have a choice,” he said. “One of the reasons we are not able to move in that direction now is because of the cost of facilities.”
The next board meeting is scheduled 7 p.m. Monday at the district office.