Teachers union, school district agree to full-day kindergarten | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Teachers union, school district agree to full-day kindergarten

William Ferchland

A deal struck this week between Lake Tahoe Unified School District and the teachers union will usher full-day kindergarten into elementary sites next school year.

The move, pending ratification from the school board, means at least half of the eight elementary teachers dismissed for next school year because of declining enrollment will be rehired. A ripple-effect could emerge with shifting teacher assignments but officials said it’s too early to decipher the impact.

It’s the first time the program will be instituted district wide.

“After 41Ú2 hours of discussions, both sides are pleased to announce they have come to a mutual agreement on behalf of students, staff, district, and the community to institute a full-day kindergarten program for the 2006-2007 school year,” a joint statement from the union and district states.

Parents will be notified during the kindergarten round-up process in April of the full-day kindergarten option, which will include class size reduction, keeping class-size ratio of 20 students to each teacher, the statement said.

“Not only did both sides agree on the full-day kindergarten issue, but they also finalized the 2004-2007 certificated agreement. The parties agreed that it was one of the best negotiation sessions in many years as trust continues to build on both sides of the table,” the statement said.

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Superintendent Jim Tarwater hopes the program will lure students into the enrollment-declining district from the home school or private sector, although conservative estimates have 280 students in the full-day kindergarten program next school year. It’s about the same number this school year.

Currently the district has half-day kindergarten. Children are bused to and from school in the afternoon during the switch and a portion of the day has two teachers handling one class in a form of class-size reduction, which caps the teacher-student ratio at 1-to-20.

Next year’s full-day kindergarten will have each classroom holding a maximum of 20 students to one teacher. Thus the need for additional teachers.

The program won’t cost the district much, if anything, Tarwater said. Each kindergarten student represents $494 in state money. With complete class-size reduction in place, each kindergarten student will represent $993 from the state next year.

Couple the additional revenue with the $60,000 cost savings from transporting students midday, Tarwater said the $350,000 or so to institute full-day kindergarten.

“So when you add those it’s a break even type of thing,” he said.

Bijou Community School kindergarten teacher Christina Grubbs was enthusiastic about the program because of the academic enrichment possibilities with full-day kindergarten.

“Well I’m excited because this is the best thing possible for the community and the kids,” Grubbs said.

“Now we’re getting that gift of time,” she added.

The superintendent from Orange County in his first year at the helm of Lake Tahoe Unified School District tried to keep his excitement for the program under a lid. Tarwater wanted the program because of the need to rehire teachers and possibly boost enrollment numbers.

The deal was struck Wednesday, one day after the district’s school board approved the items for negotiation between the district and its two labor unions, teachers and support personnel.