Waupaca may have a 4-year-old kindergarten in place by the fall of 2014.
Currently, Waupaca is the only school district in CESA 5 without a 4K program. Throughout the state, more than 90 percent of all districts have 4K.
The Waupaca School Board gave staff the go-ahead in November to meet with local daycare centers and preschools to investigate the feasibility of a community-based program.
Spearheading the plan are Maureen Markon, the district’s special education director, and Rhonda Hare, director of instruction and an elementary school principal.
“It benefits our schools because all the kids will come into kindergarten with a level playing field,” Hare said.
Markon noted that Waupaca 4-year-old Kindergarten (W4K) will focus on teaching children the social skills they need to succeed in school.
“They will learn how to get along with others, make friends, follow directions, pay attention, stand in line, take turns,” Markon said. “It’s a play-based curriculum.”
“Academic expectations for our students are higher as they go through the system,” according to Dr. Dave Poeschl, the district administrator. “W4K will provide them with building blocks to meet those expectations.”
W4K would have structured classes three hours a day for four days a week. Classes would be scheduled for both mornings and afternoons.
There would be no classes on the fifth day so teachers would have time to prepare lessons.
Although the district is still working on the details, the plan is to have about five community sites and one or two school sites for the program.
The community sites would be at local daycare centers or private preschools.
The district would either provide W4K teachers for the community sites or use teachers who are already working at the daycare centers.
Hare said all W4K teachers must be certified by the state Department of Public Instruction. Several of the centers already have state-certified preschool teachers.
“The district will subsidize their costs to the degree that we use their teachers,” Poeschl said, noting that it will not cost daycare centers anything to participate in W4K.
Parents will pay the same $8 per year to enroll their students in W4K as they pay for kindergarten.
Enrollment in W4K is not mandatory. Even children who enroll are not required to attend all four days, although regular attendance is expected.
About 150 children enter kindergarten each year in Waupaca.
Poeschl said the district expects about 90 percent of eligible children will be enrolled in W4K in the fall of 2014.
“Experience shows that it will not be long before we have 100 percent of the children enrolled,” Poeschl said.
Hare said another benefit of community-based W4K is that most students will remain in the familiar setting of their daycare centers.
The district will provide transportation for those students who are not staying at daycare centers which provide W4K education.
Poeschl estimates that the first year or so of W4K will cost the district about $50,000, depending on the number of students who enroll, the number of sites where the program is offered and how many bus routes are required.
The state gives the district financial aid for each enrolled student. However, the formula for state aid is based on a three-year rolling average of enrollment. So, it will be three years before the district begins to receive state aid which reflects the increased number of students.
Since W4K is for half a day, the district will only receive 50 percent of the normal state aid per pupil.
“After full implementation, we’re expecting the program to be cost neutral,” Poeschl said.
Markon said the district plans to have screening and registration for W4K in late March.
For more information or to enroll a child in W4K, call Patty Schroeder at Waupaca Learning Center at 715-258-4141.