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Schools make room for all-day kindergarten

Elementary schools around Minnesota have more than the usual amount of shuffling to do this fall as they get ready for the return of students.

With the Minnesota legislature approving the implementation of all-day kindergarten for all students starting this year, districts including Farmington and Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan have had to find space for classes and teachers to teach them.

In Farmington, elementary schools have added the equivalent of 11.5 new full time kindergarten positions. The Rosemount district has hired about 21 new teachers to handle all-day kindergarten, elementary education director Julie Olson said.

Farmington Elementary School principal Ben Januschka said the transition has been mostly smooth at his school, but it has required some changes.

“We did have to move classrooms around to get the space to work out,” he said. “We went from three kindergarten teachers to five. We had to move some other teachers down to another hallway, and that created a domino effect.”

FES has been able to work with the additional demand for space, but Januschka said that could become a bigger challenge as student populations continue to grow.

There have been challenges in District 196 as well. Olson said schools have had to squeeze kindergarten classes into spaces that are smaller than the typical 765 to 900 square foot room.

Things aren’t getting any easier as the first day of school draws near. On July 7 District 196 elementary schools had 58 more students than projected. As of Friday they were 165 ahead of projections. Even as Olson visited schools on Tuesday new families were showing up.

“It’s exciting, but finding space has been a bit of a trick,” she said.

District 192 finance director Jane Houska said the transition has gone well districtwide. The district had talked about continuing to offer half-day options for parents who didn’t want their children in school all day, but there was not enough interest to form a class. Rosemount, too, saw only scattered interest in a half-day option.

“I think we are in a much better space than a lot of the districts I’m aware of just because they’re really scrambling for the space,” Januschka said. “It was an adjustment, but we were able to do it.”

It has helped, Houska said, that the district went through a redistricting process recently that allowed it to better balance the enrollment at its schools.

The biggest challenge in the Farmington district has been at Meadowview Elementary. There have been a number of transfer requests from students who want to attend kindergarten there, but classes are full.

“It’s not like we’re turning anybody away. They just might not get their first choice,” Houska said.

All-day kindergarten is not new in either Farmington or Rosemount. Both districts have offered all-day programs to families willing to pay a fee. The big difference this year is the scale.

District 196 kindergarten teachers went through 4 ½ days of professional development to prepare for the longer kindergarten class day.

It’s taken some work to get everything done, but Januschka said the outcome will be worth the effort.

“We’re very excited to have all-day every day (kindergarten),” he said. “It just gives students a little extra head start, which they need.”

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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