Liberal takes steps towards all-day kindergarten

School officials are determined to offer all-day kindergarten
School officials are determined to offer all-day kindergarten

LIBERAL, Kan. (KSNW) — Liberal’s school district is one step closer to closing the gap for the district’s youngest learners by adding all-day kindergarten, but it won’t come without a price.

“Full day kindergarten is still a priority for our school district and for our board of education,” said Sheri King, the district’s spokesperson.

Liberal schools’ leaders say it’s a priority that they are willing to fight for.

It will cost about $600,500 to pay the salaries of extra teachers and support staff needed to add all-day classes.

“First we’d have to wait and see what does school finance look like next year, which is being discussed at the state level,” said Jerry Clay, the district’s business director. “So will we have an increase in state funding? If so we can use part of that.”

If not, Liberal is considering charging a fee for full-day kindergarten. They’re consider costs, but it could be $300 per month, similar to Pre-K, or they could increase local property taxes by raising the local option budget.

They can legally raise it high enough to cover the cost without requiring a public vote

“Currently we’re at 28.1 percent, and state allows you to go up to 30 percent,” said Clay.

But if Topeka cuts the district’s budget, officials say the administration would have to make tough decisions.

“To determine if there were any areas in which we could maybe trim,” said King, “or look at other ways if full day kindergarten was the decision we were moving forward with.”

Carrie Hensley is a working mom who has to send her daughter to day care for the half of the day she’s not in kindergarten.

“I think that it’s more advantageous for our kids,” she said, “especially in this area, to have the extra time with the teachers and the extra education.”

She says even though her daughter won’t benefit from future all-day kindergarten, she still thinks it’s best for the community over all, no matter the price.

“I understand the additional expenses,” she said, “but I also think that’s worth the risk.”

The district is currently working to recruit the additional teachers to fill current vacancies and to meet their needs for next year