As the state’s two largest districts plan to expand their all-day kindergarten offerings, they’re also trying to figure out how to keep half-day options in place.
The West Ada School District is surveying parents at registration, to get their kindergarten preferences. The Boise School District wants parents to sign up for a half-day kindergarten option by April 28.
Starting in July, districts and charters across Idaho will receive nearly a threefold boost in state funding for early literacy. They don’t have to put that money into all-day kindergarten, but they can. West Ada announced its plans for tuition-free kindergarten in April, days after the Gov. Brad Little and the Legislature passed the $72 million literacy budget. Boise announced its all-day kindergarten plan in January, even before Idaho increased its literacy budget.
But all-day kindergarten remains optional, like all kindergarten programs in Idaho. That could leave schools large and small struggling to provide families with options. And while that could be particularly difficult in small, rural schools, it also poses a challenge in large districts — such as West Ada, which has nearly 2,500 kindergartners, and Boise, which has more than 1,400 kindergartners.
In an email Thursday, the Boise district told parents that they need to express an interest in half-day kindergarten by April 28.
The district won’t necessarily provide half-day sessions in each of its 32 elementary schools. A half-day class needs at least 15 students in order to be viable.
So it’s possible that parents will look beyond their neighborhood school to enroll their child in half-day kindergarten. The district will not provide busing for half-day kindergarten.
Despite these limitations, Boise parent Sherry Nevers hopes parents will take the district up on the half-day option, and she gives administrators credit for listening to parental concerns.
“I think they’re trying to respond to the feedback they’ve been getting,” Nevers said Friday.
Nevers has been urging the district to continue to offer a half-day kindergarten option, contacting administrators and testifying at the school board’s meeting last week.
Nevers says she’s happy that Boise will offer tuition-free full-day kindergarten, but she believes half-day sessions are an important option, and she wants to enroll her daughter in half-day kindergarten this fall. Nevers’ oldest daughter attended half-day kindergarten. Nevers’ second-oldest daughter reached kindergarten age during the pandemic; she was already reading, so Nevers decided to home-school her for the year.
West Ada’s parental survey will run through May 5, and administrators will use the results to determine half-day demand across the district and at individual schools.
Parents will get word on their fall options by May 19.
More reading: Some smaller schools take a cautious approach to all-day kindergarten.