Royalton School Board considering changes for preschool

by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer

The fee for Royalton’s preschool program will remain at $500 for the 2014-2015 year. There are improvements to the program being considered by the School Board.

Community Education Coordinator Sarah Funk presented information regarding the program at Monday’s board meeting. Two main topics of discussion included whether to offer a second year of preschool at no cost and whether to offer transportation.

Each year, two to three students are encouraged to attend a second year of preschool in order to be prepared for kindergarten, Funk explained.

“Due to financial issues, the children are often pushed into kindergarten when they are not ready,” she said. “It would be nice to offer a second year at no cost, removing that barrier.”

Another barrier to preschool participation in the district can be transportation.

“It can be a challenge for families to find transportation for a student to go home from the a.m. class or get to the p.m. class,” said Funk.

Funk highlighted the fact that the Pierz School District has a 99 percent participation rate for kindergartners who attended preschool in the district. Royalton, on the other hand, has a 40 percent participation rate.

“Pierz is the only district I found that offers transportation to preschoolers,” Funk said. “Their cost is about $22,000.”

The Board asked Funk to return next month with more details regarding the district offering transportation.

“Almost 80 percent of brain development occurs before age five. Providing opportunities for 4- and 5-year-olds to engage in a rich environment where they can experience social interactions, pre-literacy and pre-math will allow them to be better prepared for kindergarten,” said Funk. “They will come in ready to learn because they have the foundation necessary to cope in a school setting.”

“Any increase in the cost of transportation will be far outweighed by the educational, social, emotional and physical benefits that preschool will provide for the children and families,” said Elementary Principal Dr. Phil Gurbada. “Expanded preschool will make us a better school district and provide a needed service.”

“By providing transportation we would be eliminating one barrier that might prevent the kids who need to be here to get here,” Funk said.

Royalton School Board Briefs

Other business that came before the Royalton School Board Monday included:

• Approving the following donations: eight mountain bikes from the Sauk Rapids Police Department; $4,295 from the wrestling club for varsity wrestling warm-ups; $228.41 from the wrestling club for reimbursement of custodial and cook service for the elementary wrestling tournament; $466.46 from the wrestling club for charter bus rental to the Rick Lee Team Tournament; $1,849.26 from the wrestling club for hotel expense reimbursement from the Rumble on the Red Wrestling Tournament in Fargo; $1,141 from anonymous for pink volleyball and girls basketball warm-ups;

•Approving the hiring of Briana Johnson as MAP lead teacher; Kerry Drager as afternoon MAP supervisor; Mary Olson as Title I paraprofessional; Shelley Gurbada as elementary door monitor/secretary; and Tami Shaughnessy as junior high speech adviser;

• Approving the resignation of junior high speech coach Melanie Cimenski;

• Hearing Supt. Jon Ellerbusch’s update regarding facilities planning. Architect Paul Youngquist of Architects Rego + Youngquist of St. Louis Park has been brought on board to further identify the space requirements of academics and programming;

• Approving the contract with Voigt’s Bus Companies for two coach buses for prom in Crosslake; and

• Discussing incorporating additional snow days in the 2014-2015 district calendar.

The next Royalton School Board meeting will be Monday, March 10, at 7 p.m. at the high school.