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Charles City preschool to move to half-day sessions next year

By Travis Fischer,

A major change is being proposed for the Charles City Community School District’s preschool program for the upcoming 2024-25 school year.

During the regular board meeting on Monday, Feb. 12, Washington Elementary Principal Joe Carney presented the school board with an overview on how the preschool program currently works and what changes are being proposed for next year.

Charles City preschool to move to half-day sessions next year
Joe Carney, Washington Elementary principal

Currently, preschool runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. on Tuesday through Friday. Kids are transported with the K-12 students, served breakfast and lunch, and occupy three general education classrooms and a special education classroom.

Offering this level of preschool service is a boon for district parents, but has presented significant challenges for the school in both funding and staffing.

“Funding preschool is always a challenge,” said Carney. “Preschool students are funded at half the rate of K-12 students.”

Carney explained that each classroom costs approximately $90,000 to operate. With the school receiving $3,799 per student in state funding, that means 24 students in each classroom to “break even.”

In addition, due to a limited available space, the district is at maximum capacity for preschool students, with more than 20 kids currently on a waiting list.

Proposed for the next school year, the preschool program will split into morning and afternoon sessions on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

The morning session will run from 8:05 a.m. to 11:05 a.m., and serve breakfast. The afternoon session will run from 12:10 p.m. to 3:10 p.m. and serve lunch.

“This will allow us to serve more students because we can have two sessions each day,” said Carney.

With the recent resignation of a preschool teacher, moving to half-day sessions would allow the district to still serve more students even in two classrooms.

The impact of cutting class time down for students was addressed, with Carney explaining that much of the academic work is already done in the early part of the school day, with the latter half more dedicated to lunch time, nap time and play time.

“The afternoon is not really getting a lot of academic value,” said Carney.

Beyond the students themselves, this change will have a major impact on district parents, who will need to make arrangements for child care during half of the day.

Transportation is also a major concern to be addressed. While some kids may be able to ride the bus to school in the mornings or home from school in the afternoon, there is currently no plan to provide transportation for kids that need to be picked up at the end of the morning session or dropped off for the afternoon session.

“I would really encourage you to figure out how to do transportation,” said board member Josh Mack. “I think that would help ease the challenge for parents.”

Carney acknowledged that this change will present a challenge to parents, but it is the only way for the preschool program to operate in a way that is financially viable.

“The biggest reason is the financial sustainability,” said Carney. “The math really doesn’t work to make it a full day program.”

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