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Four new staff for kindergarten

Dry Hollow School will be the final elementary to add all-day kindergarten in the upcoming school year, and the proposed school district budget has four new staff positions to implement the change.

The district general fund is proposed to increase $700,000, from $31.2 million to $31.9 million.

The budget includes no cost of living increases for the 358 full-time equivalent employees, but does cover salary increases for experience or longevity steps, according to a budget message from North Wasco County School District 21 Superintendent Candy Armstrong.

The school board will adopt the budget June 25. While the proposed budget does not include cost of living increases, the two unions in the district both have contracts that expire June 30. Reaching a new contract typically can take six to 18 months to complete.

The first school to add all-day kindergarten was Chenowith, two years ago, and Col. Wright went to all-day this year.

The all-day kindergarten has already paid dividends, as the school board heard at its May meeting when kindergarteners from Col. Wright read to the board. Their teacher said it was the first time in her career that all of her students were reading by year’s end and she credited it to full-day classes, the curriculum, and having an aide.

“To have her entire class reading by the end of the year is a big deal if we’re going to” reach statewide educational goals, Armstrong said.

Those goals include having all students get at least a high school diploma, and 40 percent going onto trade school and 40 percent going to college.

The new personnel will include two teachers and two instructional assistants at Dry Hollow, plus one special education teacher at Dry Hollow.

Col. Wright is at capacity and cannot accept an additional class of kindergarteners.

While it is not a state mandate to have all-day kindergarten, this coming budget year will be the first year that districts that don’t have all-day kindergarten will be penalized, Armstrong said.

It is also the first school year that the state will be paying for kindergarteners as full-time students. Previously, the state only reimbursed school districts at the rate of a half-time student, even if the student was all-day.

The district has been readying itself for all-day kindergarten by putting in modular classrooms in recent years, and has funded it by taking the rare step of borrowing on a line of credit it has, and repaying it with general fund dollars.

The district has purchased four modulars, two each at Chenowith and Dry Hollow. Each costs $200,000 installed, contains two air conditioned classrooms with a shared bathroom, and will be used by the district for at least 20 years, Anderson said.

The state school fund that covers the cost of education is purposely designed not to cover capital projects, Anderson said. Capital expenditures are meant to be handled through local bond issues, he said.


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