PHILOMATH, Ore. – The Philomath School District is discussing the possibility of offering a free full-day kindergarten program next year if parents want it.
Last week, the Corvallis School District decided to offer full-day kindergarten at all of its elementary schools without charging tuition.
Philomath Superintendent Dan Forbess says he is worried parents may transfer their children to Corvallis schools if Philomath does not offer a free program as well.
“We can’t afford to lose any more students, but we’re also not in the same financial position that Corvallis is,” Forbess said.
The district says within the last decade, it has seen a decline in enrollment numbers. This year, 80 students are in kindergarten. But 126 high school seniors are graduating, and the school district is losing students – and state dollars.
“If we wanted to switch all classes to free full-day kindergarten, we would need to find $185,000 in our budget,” Forbess said. “Which we don’t have.”
One Philomath mom enrolled her kids in full-day kindergarten when they were younger, but she had to pay for it.
“It’s stressful money wise,” Ronda Wiggins said, who is a single parent. “Everything’s so expensive.”
This year, Forbess says the district has one full-day kindergarten class available, but it costs roughly $300 per month for parents to enroll their kids.
“With half-days and being a single parent, it makes it a little complicated to be working and figuring out how you’re going to get your child from school to daycare,” Wiggins said. “I think it would be really helpful for a lot of single families to have free full-day kindergarten.”
Though many parents say full-day kindergarten is the best option, others disagree.
“When my grandson gets out, he’s tired,” said Ileene Smith, who picks up her grandson from Clemens Primary School several times a week. “He’s in the half-day program.”
Smith argues that her grandson and many other kids would not do as well in the full-day classes.
“I think it would be too hard on them,” she said. “I mean they’re only five years old. And they need that rest I think in the afternoons.”
But at the same time, the Philomath School District says it understands that families have different needs.
“If our community members and parents want the full-day kindergarten option, we’re going to provide it for them,” Forbess said. “At least that will be my recommendation to the Philomath Board of Directors.”
On May 6, the district is inviting parents to an orientation to hear their thoughts. If need be, the district says it may cut other programs in order to offer free full-day kindergarten. The orientation is at Clemens Primary School from 6:30 – 8:00 pm.