All-Day Kindergarten; If Passed, $630K In Savings For Duluth Public Schools

By KBJR News 1

April 26, 2013 Updated Apr 26, 2013 at 6:19 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - If you have children entering kindergarten in the fall of next year, they may have a new option...all day, every day kindergarten.

Both the Minnesota House and Senate have approved an education finance bill that would pay for voluntary all–day kindergarten.

But as Justin Reis reports, a number of elementary schools in Duluth are already offering that option and have been for years.

For more than two decades, the Nettleton Elementary school in the heart of Duluth, has been offering full, six hour days, of classes to their kindergarten students.

Soon, all Minnesota students may have the same opportunity.

"They need a wonderful start to their education and a half day kindergarten wasn't providing all of the services that our kids needed. Boy, it has really made a huge difference with our kids over the years," Stephanie Heilig, Nettleton Elementary Principal, said.

Nettleton Elementary School Principal Stephanie Heilig says keeping kindergarteners in school all day encourages them to develop faster in terms of vocabulary, social skills and reading abilities.

"By getting a very enriched kindergarten program that focuses on literacy, and vocabulary, and numbers, and counting and then also, playing and getting along with each other...we found that significantly increases their successes they went on into school," Heilig said.

But Principal Heilig adds some students have brief difficulties adjusting to a six hour school day... but she says most quickly adapt.

"I tell you what, Kindergarten is a very hard grade to teach," Heilig said.

Minnesota is one of nearly a dozen states in the country that has not passed funding for all–day kindergarten. Some state officials say this would be a cost saving measure for many parents.

"Right now, we do fund half day kindergarten. Some districts do offer all day kindergarten, but it's a fee based. That fee can range anywhere from $300–$400/mo," Sen. Greg Clausen, (DFL) Apple Valley, said.

Senator Greg Clausen of Apple Valley says if state leaders want college ready high school students, state officials are going to make sure these young minds have a strong foundation.

Many parents say they support all day school for their kids.

"Just her attitude. She's a lot happier now that she is in school," Linda Brodin, a parent, said.

Duluth Public schools have been funding all day kindergarten for the last three years.

If the education finance bill is passed into law, Duluth Public schools would save more than 630 thousand dollars on an annual basis according to Superintendent Bill Gronseth.

Justin Reis, NNC.