All-day kindergarten tuition to increase by $200 for Mehlville schools in ’09-’10

Full-day kindergarten tuition had been unchanged for 3 years

By BURKE WASSON

While offering free full-day kindergarten is one of the Mehlville School District’s long-range goals, the Board of Education in the meantime has raised tuition for all-day kindergarten by nearly $200 per year.

Board members recently voted to raise the full-day kindergarten tuition to $2,200 per year from its current level of $2,006.

The 9.7-percent increase is effective for the 2009-2010 school year. The increase is expected to generate an estimated $57,000 of additional revenue in the 2009-2010 school year.

Besides increased all-day kindergarten tuition, Superintendent Terry Noble told board members that the administration this month would request a fee increase for early childhood enrollment.

“I think we need to move this (full-day kindergarten tuition) annually along with early childhood costs and fees as well,” Noble told the board in December. “In fact, we’ll be coming to you next month with a recommendation on early childhood.”

Chief Financial Officer Noel Knobloch said the district’s full-day kindergarten fees had been unchanged for the past three years.

Though Mehlville’s annual tuition for all-day kindergarten will climb in the next school year, district officials note that it will remain cheaper than other nearby districts’ fees for full-day kindergarten.

Annual full-day kindergarten fees are $3,600 in Kirkwood, $3,520 in Parkway, $3,500 in Webster Groves and $3,450 in Rockwood, according to Knobloch. Mehlville currently has an estimated 275 to 300 pupils enrolled in full-day kindergarten.

Knobloch said while he believes a tuition increase is needed, district officials are proud of the fact that Mehlville’s full-day kindergarten tuition is less than other districts.

“I think we’ve tried to keep ours as low as possible so that if you get them too high, you’ll have people not come because they can’t afford it either,” Knobloch said. “So it’s kind of a guessing game as to where your point of diminishing returns are …

“This doesn’t cover the cost. But it does help to bring some of it. So I think it’s just a policy that the board needs to tell us which direction we need to go. I think not upping it for three years in a row puts us in a negative situation, if you will. So I think if we take a look at it and did a little bit each year, we can at least get a little bit closer. I certainly wouldn’t recommend going as high as $3,500 or $3,600 because I think then you’d lose some of the people who couldn’t afford it. So you’re better off keeping it more affordable.”

Board President Tom Diehl reminded the board that during the district’s public-engagement program in 2007 and 2008, free full-day kindergarten was one of the community’s recommendations.

The district’s long-range plan formed through COMPASS — Charting the Oakville-Mehlville Path to Advance Successful Schools — shows that free all-day kindergarten is included in the first of four proposed funding phases of improvement.

“That would be an ultimate goal,” Knobloch said. “I know Fox, which is a neighboring district, does have full-day kindergarten at no cost.”