Full-day kindergarten a vital step

Written by Baker City Herald Editorial Board November 25, 2013 11:43 am

The Baker School Board has started discussing a vital topic — full-day kindergarten — and the board’s measured approach is appropriate.

All board members agree that full-day kindergarten would benefit Baker students.

Education experts say all-day kindergarten classes are crucial in helping kids read at grade level by the third grade. The importance of reaching that goal can’t be underestimated.

But switching from the current half-day kindergarten schedule to full-day would not be cheap.

Doug Dalton, the Baker District’s chief financial officer, told board members last week that the change would cost an estimated $350,000 per year just in personnel expenses.

The district can’t cover that without cutting somewhere else, or dipping into its $1.2 million ending fund balance but with no way to replenish the fund.

Neither option is attractive.

Fortunately, though, the board is not content to wait for state officials, who might in the future require districts to offer full-day kindergarten.

(Whether such a mandate would include extra dollars from the state is another, and uncertain, matter.)

Last week board chairman Andrew Bryan said he will appoint a committee to consider options for adding full-day kindergarten.

We hope this is an active committee, with broad representation from the community.

There’s no great hurry.

But neither should the board and district allow full-day kindergarten to languish as a goal.