Boise, West Ada to offer limited half-day kindergarten options

The West Ada School District is still figuring out where to provide half-day kindergarten.

But for Boise parents who prefer half-day kindergarten, they will have to send their child to a single elementary school in Southeast Boise.

Idaho’s two largest districts will offer tuition-free all-day kindergarten this fall, using increased state funding for early literacy programs. West Ada and Boise have offered tuition-based, full-day kindergarten — as many districts and charters have cobbled together funding to supplement state-funded, half-day kindergarten.

But while all-day kindergarten is popular with many parents, the move poses logistical challenges for large and small schools alike. And some parents want to keep their kids at home part of the day or ease them into the school day.

In Boise, Liberty Elementary School will be the only half-day option. No busing will be available for the morning sessions, no lunch will be provided and parents will need to commit to half-day kindergarten at least through the fall semester.

The district says the limited options reflect limited demand.

“The number of students who committed to participate in half-day kindergarten for 2022-2023 fell below the district’s desired enrollment threshold at every school in the district,” officials said in a May 11 email to parents. “However, overall parent interest warranted offering families the ability to open enroll in the half-day kindergarten program at one location.”

Previously, the Boise district said it needed enrollment of at least 15 kids to make a half-day kindergarten class viable. Fewer than 20 students are enrolled for the half-day option, district spokesman Dan Hollar said Tuesday, and the district chose to hold the class at Liberty because most of the families that are interested in half-day kindergarten live in Southeast Boise.

Boise parents must sign up for half-day kindergarten at Liberty by June 1. After that, spaces will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

In West Ada, kindergarten open enrollment ends Wednesday, and parents should learn more about their half-day options by June 1. That’s when district officials plan to send out notifications, letting parents know where half-day classes will be available.

West Ada has identified eight possible half-day kindergarten sites — based partly on geography, but also based on available classroom space.

District officials are still trying to gauge interest in half-day kindergarten, but it appears most parents are comfortable with the all-day plan.

The district received about 900 survey responses earlier this spring — representing a fraction of West Ada’s 3,000 or so incoming kindergartners. Slightly more than 200 respondents said they were entertaining the half-day option, district spokesman Greg Wilson said Tuesday.

As in Boise, no busing will be available for West Ada’s half-day kindergarten. But unlike Boise, if West Ada parents sign up for the half-day program, they will need to commit for the full school year.

West Ada is trying to provide options, beyond a strict full-day or half-day session. Parents can work with principals on a flexible “hybrid” full-day option that allows kids to have more time at home.

“We’re going to come up with the best approach possible,” Wilson said.



Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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