Mehlville Board of Education votes to give kindergartners ‘Gift of Time’

To the editor:

There has been a great deal of forward motion in the Mehlville School District over the last 18 months.

We have strengthened our curriculum by offering students more challenging classes.

In addition to the current Advanced Placement, or AP, classes in Biology, Physics, Calculus, plus 15 others, next year we will offer AP Chemistry. There is a new four-year Biomedical Science program, a new two-year program in Culinary Arts and next year we will offer a programming class in Robotics.

We are in the process of upgrading our facilities with the construction of the district’s first-ever auditorium at Mehlville Senior High School, tennis courts at Bernard Middle School for both school and community use and the installation of solar panels, which will reduce our carbon footprint and save us more than $100,000 on utility bills.

Even with all that progress, perhaps the district’s most significant decision occurred just two weeks ago. The Mehlville Board of Education voted to give kindergartners, starting next year, the “Gift of Time.” The approval of tuition-free, full-day kindergarten, or FDK, will give hundreds of children per year more instructional time in the classroom.

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.

Studies have shown that for every $1 invested in early education programs, society reaps $8 or more in benefits such as increased economic output and decreased crime. Over the next decade, it is possible that some 5,000 — or more — children will benefit from FDK whose families otherwise could not have afforded the tuition previously charged.

As these better-prepared children grow and advance through our district, every grade-level teacher will be more effective in teaching his or her required curriculum. Advantages will pile on top of advantages.

In a decade, as these better-prepared children reach high school, I would expect to see an increase in the number of students taking AP, biomedical and robotics classes. Those students will then be better equipped to compete for admission slots and scholarships to our nation’s elite universities.

As a former student in the Mehlville School District and a graduate of Oakville Senior High School, I can say with absolute certainty that this a better district today than when I was a student.

The great news from Nov. 28 is this — education continues to improve at Mehlville and a recent graduate today should hopefully be able to make the same statement 15 years from now.