Forward motion continues with full-day kindergarten

By Mike Anthony

With all the news surrounding the Mehlville School District at the start of the current school year, one success story unfortunately was lost in the shuffle — the start of the district’s tuition-free, full-day kindergarten program.

At the start of the 2013-2014 school year, more than 760 students were enrolled in Mehlville’s tuition-free, full-day kindergarten program.

The Board of Education voted unanimously last November to approve Superintendent Eric Knost’s recommendation that the district offer tuition-free, full-day kindergarten, effective this year.

Then-Board of Education President Venki Palamand termed the board’s approval of full-day kindergarten the “Gift of Time” in a letter to the editor published in December.

“The approval of tuition-free, full-day kindergarten, or FDK, will give hundreds of children per year more instructional time in the classroom,” Palamand wrote. “In a 174-day school year, this works out to 500 more instructional hours per year, or the equivalent of 87 more days in school, for 5-year-olds. Student-teacher instructional time is the most important element for achieving academic success, even more so for children at such a young age.”

Offering a tuition-free, full-day kindergarten program was a long-stated goal of the Mehlville School District, one much desired by parents.

In fact, during Mehlville’s public-engagement program in 2007 and 2008, tuition-free, full-day kindergarten was one of the community’s recommendations.

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

After the school board’s approval of tuition-free, full-day kindergarten last November, Knost termed the vote “historic.”

“For us to be able to offer what we feel is needed and appropriate for the curriculum without tuition is historic,” he said, “and I would say it’s historic because in years past these kinds of decisions were attempted to be made with a ballot.”

We believe Knost and the Board of Education should be applauded for the decision to provide tuition-free, full-day kindergarten — a revenue-neutral program that boosts student achievement and improves students’ social and emotional skills.