As St. Louis Park prepares to offer all-day kindergarten to every student starting this fall, the school district is bringing early learning specialists into classrooms to meet with teachers, sending staff to a state-led conference and convening a task force to determine the best way to implement the new program.
“Kindergarten is a great opportunity for us to be very purposeful about finding a strategic way to close the achievement gap,” said Kari Ross, the district’s Director of Teaching and Learning, at a recent school board meeting.
A $134 million appropriation by the Minnesota Legislature means the financial implications of all-day kindergarten for the district will be minimal. A $15 million capital repair levy approved by voters in November will fund additional classroom space.
The task force, which will include pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers from every elementary in St. Louis Park, will meet six times before March. Members will discuss what it means for children to be ready for kindergarten and share practices that have worked at different district schools.
Ross said that while all-day kindergarten is currently offered to many students in St. Louis Park, implementation is somewhat hodgepodge across schools, and that the new program will be more unified and “more rigorous.”
Lisa Greene, St. Louis Park’s Director of Community Education, said that the district will also be working to provide guidelines for what kids should know when they enter kindergarten.
“Once we get our act together internally, we’ll reach out to other day cares and friends-and-family day cares to talk about what ‘ready for kindergarten’ means in St. Louis Park,” she said.The district is also considering keeping a part-day kindergarten program—but only if it receives 20 application forms by a Jan. 31 deadline.