All kindergarteners in the Idaho Falls School District will have access to free, full-day kindergarten starting next school year after trustees voted swiftly and unanimously during a work session on Tuesday.
Idaho Falls already offered full-day kindergarten at four elementary schools, but announced last month that a declining number of local students entering kindergarten “ready to learn” had brought talk of taking the service districtwide to the forefront.
Just 31% of the district’s kindergarteners were reading at grade level this fall, according to Idaho Reading Indicator scores. The state average on the same test was 41%.
“This is an investment to ensure our children start school with a strong foundation, and that they have all the support they need to be successful,” Idaho Falls Superintendent James Shank wrote earlier this month in an announcement about the proposal.
No discussion advanced Tuesday’s vote, though trustees heard details about the plan during a Jan. 12 board meeting.
One school that had offered full-day kindergarten, Temple View Elementary, attributes a high level of early-reading growth to its optional program, administrators told the board. Only 27% of the schools kindergartners were at grade level on the 2020 Fall IRI, leaders said, but the number had jumped to 74% when students took the Spring IRI.
Tuesday’s decision expands kindergarten to all of the district’s elementary schools. Parents still have the option to participate. Money for the expansion will come from the district’s general funds, K-3 literacy, special education and title dollars, as well as federal COVID-19 relief funds and other grants.
The district also hopes state funds for full-day options will come through, as outlined in Gov. Little’s State of the State address.
District administrators, elementary school principals and a committee of kindergarten teachers spent months considering how to take the plan districtwide. They have “identified space in their schools,” analyzed staffing considerations, curriculum needs and researched other “furniture and technology needs,” the announcement from earlier this month reads.
Parents can find more information about full-day kindergarten opportunities during spring registration.
Further reading from Tuesday: A two-thirds majority of Idahoans support state-funded full-day kindergarten, according to Boise State University’s annual Idaho Public Policy Survey. Read more here.