C-I School District moves forward with all-day, every-day kindergarten

The Cambridge-Isanti School District is moving forward with plans to offer all-day, every-day kindergarten beginning with the 2014-15 school year.

During the Dec. 19 School Board meeting, the board approved a resolution to offer all-day, every-day kindergarten next year, and add on to the existing Cambridge Primary and Isanti Primary school buildings to house the program.

Director of Teaching and Learning Tim Truebenbach explained the Legislature passed the 2013 education finance bill that funds all-day, every-day kindergarten beginning with the 2014-15 school year.

Truebenbach cited the National Education Association, which stated longitudinal data demonstrates that children in full-day kindergarten show greater reading and math achievement gains than those in half-day classes.

He also cited data from the Economic Policy Institute and Committee for Economic Development that states investment in high-quality early childhood programs generate return rates of 3-to-1 or even higher, which translates to $3 saved for every $1 invested. An early investment means lower grade retention and dropout rates for students later.

Rhonda Fischer, Cambridge Intermediate and Primary School K-5 instructional literacy coach, explained the kindergarten program will follow the current curriculums being offered in the district. She said it will align with the common core state standards, they will be reading well by third grade and learning that was once part of first grade is now expected to be learned in kindergarten.

Fischer gave a few examples of 2010 expectations of kindergartners compared to today:

• 2010: Print name and write “many letters of the alphabet.” Today: Compose informative-explanatory, opinion and narrative writing pieces.

• 2010: Read 10 high-frequency words. Today: Read 40 high frequency words.

• 2010: Read at level B (two lines of text per page). Today: Read at level D (multiple lines of text per page).

“The rigor is much more higher when looking at the common core standards,” Fischer said.

Director of Finance and Operations Robyn Vosberg-Torgerson explained the district is projecting to have 400 kindergartners enrolled in the all-day, every-day program, and 400 half-day kindergartners.

As far as cost estimates, Vosberg-Torgerson said the district is estimating $646,300 for full-time equivalent staffing positions, $95,900 in classroom supplies and resources, and $300,000 in transportation costs, for a total cost of $1,042,200. Vosberg-Torgerson said the cost estimate is on the “high” side.

As far as funding, Vosberg-Torgerson said 400 full-day kindergartners will generate $2,322,400 in general education aid, and 400 half-day kindergartners will generate $1,277,320 in aid, for an increased revenue of $1,045,080.

She said with the $1,045,080 in revenue and $1,042,200 in expenses, the district will have $2,880 remaining.

“This pretty much will be a cost-neutral situation to start out with,” Vosberg-Torgerson said. “However, I really look at the $95,900 in resource costs and $300,000 in transportation costs to be one-time costs.”

Board Chair Tim Hitchings explained the district looked at three different facility options for the program: make room in existing buildings, lease space for Early Childhood or add on to existing primary school buildings.

Hitchings explained making room in existing buildings would cause the district to exceed its board-recommended class sizes. He said when the district looked at the costs associated with leasing space or constructing space, it was pretty even.

“We decided to go with adding on to the existing buildings because, after 15 years, it becomes cost-neutral and we have an asset at the end of the 15 years,” Hitchings said. “If we would have leased space, it would have cost the same, and we would have had no asset to the district.”