PHILOMATH, Ore. — Parents have always had to pay to enroll their children in a full-day kindergarten program in Philomath, but starting this fall, all kindergartners will be able to enroll for free.
The state owes the district $300,000 from the previous fiscal year, a fund from which the district will use $185,000 to fund the full-day kindergarten program.
The Corvallis School District recently decided to offer free full-day kindergarten in all of its classes next year, and the Philomath District says it was afraid of kids transferring if it didn’t offer it as well.
One Philomath parent says her incoming second-grader did not have the option for free-full day kindergarten last year, and she is excited for other parents.
“It would have been really nice,” said Lisa Tribbet. “Because I was a student last year myself and parents who work – they have to coordinate for somebody to pick them up.”
For the 2014-15 year, all kindergartners will be enrolled in full-day classes, but the district says parents will have the option to pull their children out of class early if they only want the half-day option.
“I think it’s great,” Tribbet said. “I think it will work out for a lot of parents a lot better.”
But the program doesn’t come at an easy cost for the school district. Next year, the district says about 90 kindergartners will enroll, while about 157 seniors will graduate – leaving behind a huge gap in enrollment numbers.
“In general, the state funds school districts through a grant that’s based on the number of students enrolled,” said Philomath Superintendent Dan Forbess.
Forbess says on average, the state funds districts about $7,000 a year for each student.
With a loss of 67 students, the district will see a loss of about $469,000.
So far, the district says it has not made any program cuts, but the declining enrollment will force other kinds of cuts elsewhere, such as opportunity reductions when teachers retire and are not replaced. Next year, two full-time teachers will not be replaced after their retirements.
The district says it may also offer fewer classes in certain programs, such as music.
Despite the declining enrollment, the district says there was a fear that students would transfer to Corvallis if it did not also offer a free full-day kindergarten program – meaning more of a loss in the long run, for an already tight budget.
“The offering of a full-day kindergarten in Corvallis certainly weighed on our decision to offer full-day in Philomath,” Forbess said.
Starting the 2015-16 school year, the state is mandating full-day kindergarten at all schools.