School Officials Announce Universal Full-Day Kindergarten’s Price Tag

School leaders have crunched the numbers to come up with one of the most sought-after figures in Loudoun County.

They now know what it would cost to provide a full, six-hour school day to every local kindergartener starting this fall.

The price tag is $16.5 million. That’s how much more it would cost to hire enough teachers and support staff and purchase instructional materials to offer a full school day for the 5,121 kindergartners expected to enroll this fall.

Director of Elementary Education W. Michael Martin announced the eight-figure estimate at a budget work session Wednesday.

Then he broke the bad news: “It’s just hypothetical because we don’t have the space today.”

The fact that Superintendent Eric Williams could not deliver a cost estimate for universal full-day kindergarten last fall—ahead of Election Day—was a common criticism among candidates vying for seats at the local and state levels.

The superintendent had said that any figure his staff came up with wouldn’t be much more than a “guestimate” because the population in much of the county is still growing. Classroom additions will be needed in central and southern Loudoun to accommodate all of the county’s kindergarteners. But Williams said in October that it was too early to know exactly which schools will need additional classrooms. And it still is, Martin reiterated Wednesday. Once neighborhoods in central Loudoun mature and enrollment levels out, more classroom space might open up in the Ashburn area.

Still, Martin said senior staff members wanted to respond to board members’ request and at least provide a rough estimate if the classroom space was there.

During the work session, board members also heard more details on Williams’ plan to make big strides toward universal full-day kindergarten. The superintendent’s proposed budget earmarks $9.7 million to extend a full school day to 75 percent of the county’s 5,121 kindergartners this fall.

Loudoun County is one of three divisions in Virginia that do not offer every kindergartner a full school day. In the past year, they have expanded the percentage of kindergartners who attend a full day from 11 percent to 32 percent, or 1,536 students.

To boost that to 3,841 kindergartners, the proposal calls for 167 full-day classes in 43 schools. Under that plan, 32 schools would offer only full-day kindergarten to its students. Families who prefer a half day could apply to attend another school.

The seats in full-day classrooms would first go to students considered academically at-risk, then to other students within that school. Any remaining seats would be assigned through a lottery.

View more details on the proposal here, and see a list of schools that would offer full-day kindergarten under Williams’ plan here.

dnadler@loudounnow.com
@danielle_nadler