All-day kindergarten is expensive

By Amanda C. Davis

The school district’s need to live within its means is the chief reason why there won’t be all-day kindergarten next year.

The board voted this week to again waive the all-day program for the 2010-2011 year. Superintendent Dante Zambrini said officials aren’t against a longer day but that they have to face the “reality of our resources.”

The district has received an “excellent” rating from the state each of the last 10 years, which shows students are doing well under the current arrangement, he said. “It appears we are doing the right thing for children.”

He acknowledged that some students would benefit from the extra time in school, but pointed out kindergarten students already have a day of instruction that includes academics, art, physical education, computers, library and music.

Zambrini said offering a full day would mean adding time for lunch, recess and an activity period.

Zambrini has heard from parents who favor half days because they enjoy spending more time during the week with their children. Those parents in favor of all-day kindergarten are typically the ones who work, he said.

In order to provide all-day instruction, Zambrini said the board would have to hire six teachers at a cost of about $318,000 per year. The five additional classrooms that would be needed would cost about $6 million or $7 million for new construction.

Zambrini said there’s no room to expand at C.H. Campbell Elementary and new construction at Hilltop Elementary would cut into recreational space including soccer fields.

Adding modular units to increase classroom space isn’t an option because of space limitations and the expectation of the community that schools will be pleasant to look at, although not lavish, the superintendent explained.

District Business Manager Rich Archer said full-day kindergarten would mean adding buses to routes at an additional cost because elementary buses are already full.

Canfield is one of a few local districts that offer half-day kindergarten. Poland Schools moved to all-day instruction last year and Superintendent Dr. Robert Zorn said the district was fortunate because it had the space and extra classrooms to make the change.

“Our parents overwhelmingly wanted all-day kindergarten,” he said and explained officials were able to realign existing space and costs were limited to the hiring of three and a half teaching positions.

Poland was able to save money on transportation costs because it eliminated the mid-day pickups and drop offs of kindergarten students.

Because of the economy, Zambrini doesn’t believe voters would support a bond issue to fund construction at this time.

He explained the state considers Canfield a wealthy district, based on property valuation and income of residents. This makes it ineligible for a high percentage of state assistance.

The Ohio School Facilities Commission ranks Canfield 496 out of 612 districts on a list prioritizing funds for new construction. Many other Ohio districts are funded at 80 percent or 90 percent and only have to make up the difference. Because of the ranking, Canfield would be expected to pay 84 percent of new construction, with the state chipping in 16 percent.

Zambrini is finalizing a letter to Gov. Ted Strickland, asking for consideration to be moved up higher on the priority list. He is also asking the state to implement the 80 percent funding level that would allow the district to pay just 20 percent of new construction.

Even though residents have been historically supportive of the schools, Zambrini said they “have experienced the same economic hardships as other districts.”

Canfield Schools owns property along Shields Road in front of Canfield Baseball Club. When the district is ready to expand, Zambrini said it would be his recommendation that a K-5 school is built and the other two elementary schools would be re-categorized from K-4 to K-5.

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