Push for 4k in Evansville continues

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Gina Duwe
Wednesday, September 18, 2013

EVANSVILLE—A panel discussion on how 4-year-old kindergarten runs in other area districts led several parents Tuesday night to question why Evansville is an island among its neighbors without a program.

Stay-at-home mother of two Sarah Tachon questioned the millions of dollars the city has spent in recent years to pave the downtown with bricks and dredge Lake Leota, compared to the relatively smaller, unknown amount of money to start 4k.

“I want to know why we have 90 kids that we can't pay for them to go to school, if it costs $350,000, $500,000,” she said. “The number seems insignificant to the brick that we drive up and down.” 

Superintendent Jerry Roth and others are pushing to start 4-year-old kindergarten in the district after multiple failed attempts in the past. The district set up Tuesday's panel at Creekside Place to give community members a chance to hear how 4k works elsewhere and ask questions. Joanna Parker, southern region collaboration coach for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, facilitated the nine representatives from Verona, Janesville, Marshall, DeForest, Stoughton and Edgerton.

The night concluded with a chance for people to submit interest forms to serve on the 4k investigation committee the district hopes to form with eight to 10 members by the end of the month. Anyone interested needs to fill out a form by Monday.

The committee will meet one to two times a month through March and be charged with researching 4k and making a recommendation to the school board, said Paula Landers, director of instruction.

One parent questioned how soon the district could get 4k running, and Parker said the school board would need to grant approval by February. Students are typically enrolled by March to April, and before that happens, site and transportation details would be needed.

Roth said studying the issue would take “quite a few months,” but “as soon as possible.” He wouldn't say 2014 was impossible, but “it would take not only a gargantuan effort by the district, but even by this community to help push this forward and get it up and running.”

Former school board member Melissa Hammann noted previous attempts faced budget issues and questioned what the start-up costs were for the panelists. While none of the panelists had figures, a couple said they used money from their districts' fund balances for the initial investment.

Collaboration and communication were the keys to successful programs, panelists agreed. They also said it's great to see students more prepared for 5-year-old kindergarten because of basic social skills learned in 4k. 

4K can be offered solely within a district, at day care centers with center-hired teachers or at day care centers with district teachers, or a combination.

Panelists also explained how their programs turned day care providers from being competitors to collaborators with each other and partners with the schools, as well as having earlier contacts with parents to develop relationships.

“I think the best thing and the most difficult thing about 4k is the relationships with the community,” said Lisa Buechner of Stoughton. “This is our sixth year, so it's great now, because we're very intentional about sharing and communicating, and we do staff development on a monthly basis.”

John Dieter, father of a 3 year old, said he was hearing all the wonderful things panelists had to say about collaborating and the fun and learning students were having.

“We just want to steal that, can you just give it to us?” he said. “Is there a way you can be of more help?”

Kristen Moisson of the Janesville School District said there was no reason to reinvent the wheel—the represented districts partnered with others as they started their programs. She offered to share forms, answers and guides.

“We want to be supportive to you and your community,” she said. “Please ask, and we'll share.”

“Come visit,” added Tracy Deavers of the Edgerton district. When she told her 4k teachers about the panel, they welcomed visitors, she said.

“You'll see, right there, why you need it.”

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