Committee: Start 4k in Evansville

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Gina Duwe
Thursday, March 13, 2014

EVANSVILLE--The Evansville School Board should approve a community-based, 4-year-old kindergarten program to start in the 2015-16 school year, a study committee recommended Wednesday night.

"It is with a true belief that 4k programming will provide a foundation for a positive learning experience and allow our children to achieve personal excellence," said district Director of Instruction Paula Landers.

Landers chaired a 4k investigative committee that worked since October to research details on starting such a program. Evansville is an island among area districts because it does not have 4k.

As of January, 93 percent of Wisconsin's more than 400 school districts offered 4k education.

Expenses in the first year of the program would be $333,030, committee member Melissa Hammann said.

According to Baird, a financial consulting firm, a budget forecast for starting 4k shows a budget deficit in the first year of $223,240 and a deficit of $128,404 in the second year. By the third year, the budget shows a surplus of $40,716, though it returns to a deficit in years four and five.

The state calculates aid based, in part, on enrollment across a three-year rolling average.

A likely source to pay the start-up costs is the district's fund balance, which district Business Manager Doreen Treuden said stands at $2.5 million. Of that, however, nearly $300,000 already is earmarked for a phone system upgrade.

The committee recommended a 4k model with these details:

--Be community-based using classrooms at four partnering child care centers. Six sections of 4k would need to be offered to accommodate a projected enrollment of 106 students in 2015-16. The child care centers that have agreed to participate are: Kids Korner, 264 Lincoln St.; Magic Moments, 112 W. Church St.; Pathway Preschool, 312 S. 3rd St., and Wee Ones, 618 Porter Road.

--Have licensed teachers hired by the 4k partners to provide instruction, along with a teacher's aide for a class size range of 15 to 18.

--Be offered in two sessions, from 8 to 11 a.m. and from noon to 3 p.m., four days a week

--Two additional mid-day bus routes would need to be added, at a cost of about $62,000.

--The district would buy curriculum materials, two desktop computers for each center, and provide a supply stipend to centers. The district would provide a one-time start-up stipend for the purchase of furniture and other capital equipment as well as a stipend for before-4k supervision of children in the 4k program.

The committee consisted of district staff, parents, day care owners and community members, and several members visited Edgerton's community-based program for insight.

A community survey conducted earlier this year showed 56 percent of respondents supported starting 4k.

One parent who spoke during the public comment session Wednesday advocated for the program based on the positive experience her daughter had with a similar program the family paid for out-of-pocket.

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