Re-1 looking at cost-saving alternatives

Full-day kindergarten, college-level courses could potentially cost parents

Many families wanting to send their children to full-day kindergarten or having kids take college-level courses in the Montezuma-Cortez School District may have to pay extra money for these services.

Interim Superintendent Mary Rubadeau said the district is currently funding full-day kindergarten for all eligible students, but added some families can easily pay for these services rather than relying on the school district to pick up the cost.

Rubadeau said some parents may opt for their children to attend kindergarten for a half day instead of a full day, and added she disagrees with those decisions.

Lori Haukeness, chief academic officer for the district, told the school board at its May 1 meeting that is was possible Title I funds could be used to fund full-day kindergarten.

Chief Financial Officer Melissa Bruner said she is working with Haukeness to determine what level could be funded through Title I and added things could change in the budget if there is not a need for full-time kindergarten teachers.

“We want these kids in full-day kindergarten,” she said. “We don’t want any obstacles.”

Board member Beth Howell said a sliding scale sounds good to her because the district should not have to foot the bill for everyone.

Rubadeau said any type of kindergarten — full day or half day — is optional in the state of Colorado, as the only rule in place is for students who are 6 years old to be enrolled in the first grade.

She also said the Colorado Department of Education only funds for half-day kindergarten, and districts choosing to implement full-day kindergarten must pay the difference.

“Kindergarten is an optional program, but most parents want their kids to get of to a good start,” Rubadeau said. “We know it is good student practice.”

For the last two to three years the Re-1 has had full-day kindergarten and it was funded from monies in the general fund, she said,

According to the Re-1 2012-13 budget considerations, full-day kindergarten would cost the district $225,000, and $165,000 of that amount could be funded by Title I grant funds.

“We do have permission to use Title I funds (for full-day kindergarten), but I am not sure to what level,” she said.

Rubadeau said this is a common budgeting issue because the school board strongly believes in students having the option to attend full-day kindergarten.

She said what is being proposed in next year’s budget is to only fund full-day kindergarten to children whose families cannot afford to pay the difference, and to decide which families can and cannot afford the extra fees, the district will look at the students who are on the free or reduced lunch program.

Rubadeau said the amount families would end up paying would be a minimal amount that would cost less than what it would to put a child into day care.

In addition, the school board is considering cutting in half the funds for post secondary tuition that is currently being used by high school students.

This program is designed to allow upperclassmen at the high school to earn credit at a community college while still enrolled in high school.

High school head counselor Becky Stevens said there are currently 112 students who are taking college-level courses.

In the past, the board budgeted $90,000 for this program, but Rubadeau suggested cutting this in half to $45,000 and only fund the students who want to take post secondary classes but cannot afford them.

Rubadeau said she came up with the $45,000 figure or half of what it was by determining 50 percent of the high school student body are on the free or reduced lunch program.

She said the $45,000 figure is pretty conservative, especially since not all students eligible would want to take college-level courses while enrolled in high school.

Families of students not in the free or reduced lunch program would have to pay for the classes if their children wanted to take post secondary courses while enrolled at the high school.

Michael Maresh can be reached at michaelm@cortezjournal.com