Williams Lays Out Path for Universal Full-Day Kindergarten

Just 18 months ago, full-day kindergarten was the most repeated three-word phrase on Loudoun campaign trails. Candidates running for local, state and even federal offices promised to push school leaders to hurry up and provide a full academic day to every kindergartner in the county.

At that time, the then-newly appointed superintendent, Eric Williams, was criticized for not being able to deliver a price tag for what it would cost to provide universal full-day kindergarten, a program every other school division in the region offers.

But Williams and administrators in the school planning and instruction departments have been at work behind the scenes. For the first time on Tuesday, they unveiled specifics about what obstacles stand in the way to expand the full-day kindergarten program and what it will take to get over them.

Since 2014, the school system has increased its full-day kindergarten offerings from 11 percent to 52 percent. The plan for now is by this fall to provide a full school day to as many as 4,600 kindergartners, or 82 percent.

But the trick will be getting that figure to 100 percent. That will take creative options to free up classroom space in fast-growing parts of the county where school buildings are already cramped.

“To get to full-day kindergarten at a lot of these schools, we need to take some sort of action,” he said.

In his presentation to School Board members Tuesday, Williams went through each of the district’s planning zones to explain what it would take to expand the program. There is space in every elementary school in the Western Loudoun and Eastern Loudoun planning zones. But the remaining planning districts—Ashburn, Central Loudoun (Leesburg area), Dulles North and Dulles South—have several elementary schools that will not have consistent space for full-day kindergarten through fiscal year 2021.

In Ashburn, those schools are: Steuart W. Weller, Ashburn, Belmont Station, Cedar Lane and Dominion Trail; although, Steuart W. Weller is slated for a classroom addition in 2020 that would allow for more kindergarten slots. In the Leesburg area, the five schools facing the same constraints are: Catoctin, Lucketts, Cool Spring, Evergreen Mill and Sycolin Creek.

Williams said, even when two new elementary schools open in Dulles North and Dulles South—ES-28 in 2018 and ES-31 in 2019—most elementary schools in those districts will be too full to provide full-day kindergarten.

“Now, let’s talk solutions,” the superintendent said, adding that the School Board could add classroom trailers, build classroom additions, or redraw attendance zone boundaries to make more room.

The school system has four classroom trailers that have not yet been assigned schools, plus it has five three-room additions included in the School Board’s Capital Improvement Program. Which schools get those additions is also a decision the board has yet to make.

Williams said the School Board will also want to think about what to do for families who still prefer a half-day option for their kindergartner. One option is to consider allowing those kids to attend a full-day class for just the morning or just the afternoon. “That’s not ideal, but it is an option that parents could have,” Williams said.

Following the superintendent’s presentation, most School Board members said they’d support minimal targeted boundary changes if it meant providing a full academic day to every kindergartener.

“I know that boundary changes are unsettling for folks, but I think we have to do that,” Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) said. “I can’t imagine we’d leave so much space at one school and then go to Board of Supervisors and say can we build classroom additions?”

Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) was the one board member who said he’d favor classroom additions over more boundary changes. “Our populations change so frequently, it becomes a concern if we have to keep flexing our boundaries to handle that,” he added.

Almost every board member said they would not support an option for families to allow their child to attend just half of a full-day class.

“I can’t imagine being that teacher who’s responsible for the student who’s missing the science lesson in the afternoon,” Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) said.

Tom Marshall (Leesburg) went further to suggest that full-day kindergarten be the county’s new normal. “We don’t offer half-day first grade or second grade,” he said. “Why would we offer half-day kindergarten when our goal is to get to 100 percent full day? Let’s keep our focus there.”

Williams told the board to expect to see a plan with more clear path going forward at a June board meeting. “That will be an action item on the agenda,” he added. “And as we move forward, we’ll have greater clarity on what exactly it will take to get us to that 100 percent goal.”

dnadler@loudounnow.com

7 thoughts on “Williams Lays Out Path for Universal Full-Day Kindergarten

  • 2017-04-19 at 5:31 pm
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    Well, great news? And what is the price tag to get to 100% full day? And whos is supposed to pay for all this? Increased property taxes are coming because we have no commercial tax base.

  • 2017-04-19 at 7:00 pm
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    Why is this pos willing to spend money for FDK when there is no benefit academically?

    • 2017-04-21 at 3:46 pm
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      Because
      1) hard working parents with kids that are already spending a fortune in taxes are tired of spending additional dollars for daycare due to half day K when all other counties around us do full day.
      2) Where do you get the delusion that there is no academic benefit to full day K? It’s been proven time and time again that the brain’s ability to learn, and learn a lot, starts even earlier than 5.

        • 2017-04-23 at 9:48 am
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          SGP – is there any reason you are leaving out more recent studies that support the benefits of FDK? For instance, here is an exceprt from wested.org “Research comparing half-day and full-day kindergarten1 shows that children benefit from a developmentally appropriate, full-day program, most notably in terms of early academic achievement — a foundation for school and life success. Full-day kindergarten can afford children the academic learning time needed to prepare for mastery of primary-grade reading and math skills. In doing so, such programs help circumvent subsequent needs for remediation or grade retention.”

          So, you are apparently not an expert in google as much as you are not an expert in education.

  • 2017-04-21 at 7:07 am
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    Wasn’t Eric Hornberger just talking about closing two elementary schools because the school board didn’t get $5.5M of the $1.2B they asked for? And didn’t they just come out and say they could cut $150,000 from the summer school program without a loss of service? And wasn’t there $34M (not positive on that figure) surplus in last years budget? What the…? Does anyone on the school board take their budget preparations seriously? Looks like we need some new people on the School Board. People who take their responsibilities serious and look out what’s right for ALL the residents of Loudoun county and not just their self-serving interests.

    • 2017-04-21 at 6:02 pm
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      wwwebbs, Hornberger always plays politics with his bloated request. Note the only thing the school board didn’t consider was scaling back on the raises for their spouses (4 of the 9 work for LCPS) at 5%+ even though LCPS has the highest retention in the region.

      As to the excess funds, see Table XII of the audit report for the FY16 school year. LCPS actually spent $34M less than projected including $13M less on salaries and $6M less in operations (did any school have maintenance issues that were not fixed?). It had $37.4M more in its excess of revenues over expenditures. Even after transferring a surprise $16M to another account, it ended the year with $22M in fund balances when it had planned to end the year with just $1M. And yet they asked for $90M more on top of previous budgets despite not being able to spend what they were given.

      And we don’t even need to get into the lack of transparency in suicide policies, sexual misconducts procedures, or student growth information. Is there any public body less capable of doing its job in Virginia?

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