About 500 Loudoun kindergartners won the lottery last week.
The drawing, that is, to get one of the coveted seats in the county’s 109 full-day kindergarten classrooms this fall.
Loudoun County Public Schools held the lottery Wednesday, May 18, and released updated stats on the county’s efforts to expand full-day kindergarten at the Joint Board of Supervisors/School Board Committee meeting Monday.
The school system will expand its full-day kindergarten offerings to 2,507 students this fall, about half of the county’s kindergartners. That’s up from 34 percent of Loudoun kindergartners who receive full-day instruction this school year.
All kindergartners who are considered academically at risk are enrolled in a full-day program, and the rest of the seats are entered into the lottery.
The Loudoun school system is one of three in Virginia that does not offer a full, six-hour academic day to every kindergartner, and Superintendent Eric Williams has been criticized for not having a clear path for Loudoun to eventually provide full-day kindergarten countywide.
But Williams told members of the School Board and Board of Supervisors on Monday that plan will come. By 2020, he expects the school system will provide full school day to 85 percent of kindergartners and, by next year, he and his staff plan to have a clear road map in place that leads eventually to universal full-day kindergarten.
Williams said he will propose a plan, recognizing there are several “huge caveats.” Among those is nailing down enrollment projections—more families are expected to move from private school kindergarten to public schools once full-day programs are offered—and finding room in the school system’s and county’s capital improvement program for kindergarten classroom additions, among the much-needed school buildings. Plus, the School Board may need to find savings elsewhere in its operating budget, as a countywide full-day program is projected to cost $11 million more annually.
Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn), vice chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said he’s concerned that supervisors will get a huge funding request to build classroom additions all at once, and the need for more school buildings already has the county close to its borrowing limit. “What I’m worried about is we’ll get to 2018-2019 and say we need all these things right now for full-day kindergarten,” he said.
Williams responded, “There are a lot of moving pieces, but that is something we’re keeping in mind.”
As part of his presentation to supervisors and School Board members, the superintendent posted a photo of a half full (or half empty) glass of water.
“Is it a glass half full or a glass half empty,” he asked. “We feel that its both in this case. We can be pleased in the progress that we’ve made, all while having a sense of urgency in moving forward.”