COLUMBIA CITY â€” A proposal to consolidate kindergartners who attend school for a half day at Whitley County Consolidated Schools won a narrow victory Monday night.
At its regular board meeting, the corporationâ€™s Board of School Trustees took public input regarding a proposal made at the last meeting by Superintendent Dr. Patricia Oâ€™Connor.
In that proposal, Oâ€™Connor suggested to the board Jan. 3 that some of the corporationâ€™s elementary schools stop offering half-day kindergarten for the 2011-2012 school year.
For the 2010-2011 school year, according to Oâ€™Connor, students who attended kindergarten for a half day were in class in the morning, with the exception of Northern Heights Elementary School that had one half-day class of 13 children in the afternoon.
At Coesse, two kindergarten classes were made up largely of all-day students, with six of the 35 students attending for only a half day.
Little Turtle had four kindergarten classes. All four classes had either four or five children leaving at mid-day for a total of 18 half-day students of the schoolsâ€™ total of 82 kindergartners.
Mary Raber has two kindergarten classes, with only one, a class of 23, losing seven students at mid-day with a half-day schedule.
Corporation-wide, there are 217 kindergartners. Of those, 44 students, or 20.2 percent, attended a half day.
Oâ€™Connor presented the school board with a plan for next year that calls for the elimination of half-day kindergarten at Coesse and Mary Raber elementary schools.
At Little Turtle, there would be 24 students attending a half day, divided evenly between morning and afternoon.
Northern Heights would have one class of 20 kindergartners attending in the morning.
Oâ€™Connor said the plan is a model based on this yearâ€™s numbers but agreed with board members who said the actual numbers could vary.
Oâ€™Connor also said if there was a large shift in half-day students, the plan could be altered to have the part-time kindergartners at a different location.
Parents of students who attend kindergarten a half day, as well as those of kindergartners who qualify for free or reduced lunches, pay no tuition for kindergarten.
For full-time kindergartners not on free or reduced lunches, kindergarten costs $48.70 per week, according to Oâ€™Connor.
Several parents spoke to the board regarding the proposal, concerned that their youngsters would suffer from the effects of being bused far from their intended school.
â€śWeâ€™re concerned about a five-year-old riding the bus for an hour,â€ť said Heather Sparks.
â€śWhere does it stop, just to save a few dollars?â€ť
While the parents who spoke all said they understood why the board sometimes had to make tough decisions, they added that hard economic times cut in all directions.
â€śMoneyâ€™s a big deal to everybody, not just the school system,â€ť said one parent.
â€śIf I wanted my child to go to a different school, I would have moved near that school.â€ť
The proposal passed 5-3, with board members Don Armstrong, Tim Bloom, Brooks Langeloh, James Renbarger and Jill Western voting for the proposal while Chris Bechtold, Steve Hively and Deborah Hiss cast nay votes.
â€śI think itâ€™s the best for kids, but I donâ€™t think itâ€™s the best overall answer,â€ť said Oâ€™Connor.
â€śDown the road, I think weâ€™re going to have to have a serious discussion about half-day kindergarten.â€ť