School Board Gets ‘Terrific News’ About Future of Full-Day Kindergarten in Loudoun

Mike Martin, the head of elementary education in Loudoun County, told the School Board recently that he had good news and terrific news to share with them.

The good news is that all 5,273 kindergartners in the county are now enrolled in a full-day academic program. And the terrific news? He expects the school system can maintain universal full-day kindergarten next year.

“Woo hoo!” he added.

Earlier this year, School Board members agreed to bus some students at crowded schools to neighboring schools with space in their kindergarten classrooms and made a couple of policy tweaks—including allowing some exceptions to its maximum class size rule—to provide full-day kindergarten countywide. When the school system hit that major milestone three to four years earlier than expected, school leaders warned that it would be tricky, maybe impossible, to sustain as they maintained their focus and resources on building new schools fast enough to keep up with enrollment growth.

But Martin said during the Nov. 13 board meeting, with the enrollment projections in for 2019-2020, he expects there will be enough classroom space for every kindergartener to attend for a full day next year, too. “It’s contingent on the budget and how the boundary lines are drawn for Waxpool Elementary, but we anticipate being able to maintain full-day kindergarten.”

His team will continue to use some of the flexibility that the School Board has allowed to deliver a six-hour academic day at every elementary school. Some kindergartners who would typically attend Goshen Post Elementary will likely need to be bussed to a nearby school with more space. He also expects at least four elementary schools—Goshen Post, Liberty, Cedar Lane and Buffalo Trail—will have classes with 26 or 27 students, two more than the school system’s target max class size. Another tool Martin’s team might use is to turn computer labs at a few of the schools into classrooms.

Martin thanked the School Board for giving him and his team the tools and leeway needed to create enough classroom space for full-day kindergarten countywide. He noted that 1,004 more students are receiving a full academic day this year as compared to last year.

“This is a tribute to this School Board’s dedication to pursuing over the last four years a massive amount of progress in serving all of our students with full-day kindergarten,” he said.

Board members passed the credit onto Martin and Superintendent Eric Williams.

“While the School Board showed resolve—asking for funding and passing a policy or two—most of the hard work was done by staff in a variety of departments working together to make this happen. And the superintendent showed determination to make this happen,” said Eric Hornberger (Ashburn), who suggested some of the policy adjustments in the spring that Martin put to good use.

“Achieving 100 percent FDK next year is a tribute to the staff working on the details,” added Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles). His district includes the county’s most crowded schools that received full-day kindergarten for the first time this year. “Thank you.”

“Thank you very much for seeing this through,” added Joy Maloney (Broad Run), one of the board’s most vocal advocates of full-day kindergarten. “I hope our policy in the future will be that we just have universal full-day kindergarten—always.”

dnadler@loudounnow.com

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