All the elementary schools in the Brainerd School District may offer all-day, everyday kindergarten next school year.
The Brainerd School Board's Curriculum Committee voted 2-1 Thursday to recommend to the school board to add three full-time equivalent kindergarten teachers that would be funded through staff development funds. The school district is able to hire back about five or six positions for $300,000 out of the staff development funds that Brainerd teachers recently voted to give up.
Curriculum Committee members Ruth Gmeinder and Kent Montgomery supported the administration's recommendations. Committee member Ruth Nelson was against the proposal.
Nelson said, "I support the concept of the all-day, everyday kindergarten, but I cannot support adding more sections in just one grade level. The referendum asked for all-day, everyday and the community didn't support it. I did not support it before because it wasn't something we can afford. The state needs to take responsibility. We used to be a leader and we're not anymore and I don't want this to divide our community.
"It's not that I don't support all-day, everyday kindergarten, I just think there are things we can do. Riverside doesn't have all-day, everyday kindergarten and they're third in the state with test scores. We're doing something right."
Gmeinder said she continues to support all-day, everyday kindergarten and would like it offered at all the schools. Currently all-day, everyday kindergarten is not offered at Baxter and Riverside elementary schools and Gmeinder said people feel there is inequity in this. She said hiring the three kindergarten teachers and adding all-day, everyday kindergarten would eliminate the inequity.
Gmeinder said she has always supported all-day-everyday kindergarten because it helps students throughout their school careers and they score better on their tests.
"I'd rather put the money in prevention rather than remediation," she said.
Bob Nystrom, Brainerd School Board member but who is not on the Curriculum Committee, said he at first was against adding the three kindergarten teachers, but he changed his position because of the inequity and because it discriminates against the parents who cannot afford KinderClub, which is a program that is offered to kindergartners on their off school day.
"This makes sense to add this and use staff development dollars," said Nystrom. "The administration has put a lot of thought into this."
The Brainerd School Board will vote May 12 on the issue.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.