Payson Unified School District will offer two sections of all-day kindergarten next year. Forty-one students signed up for the program, which will cost parents $185 per month.
“I was hoping for one section,” said Superintendent Casey O’Brien. “I was pleasantly surprised we took two.”
After state lawmakers cut funding for the program, O’Brien said the district tried figuring out how to offer it anyway.
However, paying for the $230,000 program would have required expanding lower elementary school class sizes beyond 30 students.
“That doesn’t makes sense,” said O’Brien.
Which schools will offer the program hasn’t been decided yet. The district transportation director is pouring over maps with little pins that delineate where students live, trying to figure out if he can offer transportation for both the part-day and full-day programs.
“That’s not a guarantee. That’s our goal,” said O’Brien. If the district doesn’t offer full transportation, kids in the morning program would get bussed in and parents would pick them up in the afternoon. The opposite would occur for the afternoon program.
“We’ve heard from some parents that would really cause an imposition,” said O’Brien.
After school ends for the year, O’Brien will sit with parents, teachers and principals to figure out how to maximize education for the part-day students.
Some parents worry that students in the part-day program will enter first grade academically disadvantaged.
O’Brien said separate bodies of research point to both sides of that debate.
Research from the Goldwater Institute shows that the advantage students gain in all-day kindergarten erodes in later grades.
“I’ve yet to see the Goldwater Institute publish research that varies from their ideology,” he added.
However, a “significant” body of research from the group WestEd demonstrates lasting effects.
“What I don’t feel is fair is some people say, ‘Well, it’s just day care.’ If that were the case here, then we wouldn’t see the achievement results,” said O’Brien.
“I’m not in favor of day care. I’m in favor of a quality, all-day kindergarten program.”