Next Steps

USD 109 To Continue To Study Possibility Of Pre-school In 2019-20

By Deb Hadachek Telescope News

Superintendent Mike Couchpredicts he is “90 percent certain” USD 109 will offer pre-school services during the the2019-2020 school year

Monday night, the USD 109board authorized Couch andelementary principal KatieStruebing to move forward todevelop a plan for staffing.

“It will still be April beforewe pull the trigger,” Couch toldthe board. “There’s still somethings in flux I don’t know theanswers to.”

Couch said he plans to develop a business plan to ensurethe district can support theprogram financially.

“I don’t want a pre-school if our poorest kids in the county can’t afford to attend,” he said.“If we’re not serving those fam- ilies, then we don’t need to bein the pre-school business.”

Couch said he is also reluctant to hire a pre-school teacher and discover in three years the district can’t afford the program

Couch said an informal survey he and Struebing conduct- ed identified up to 17 four-yearolds and 10 or more three-yearolds who might be enrolled in aprogram.

Couch said he has also visit– ed with local child care providers to see how a school-basedpre-school might impact their businesses.

“I think investment in earlychildhood education might payoff in less resources studentsneed later on,” commentedboard member Loisann Brown.

Once construction on new classrooms at East Elementary is completed, the RepublicCounty Developmental Center will move to the elementary building. That pre-school program, staffed by the LearningCooperative of North Central Kansas, is designed to work with children who have identified needs for extra educational support.

Couch said that if USD 109 moves forward with a preschool, both programs would be blended into a single program. The district would hire two staff members who would co-teach with LCNCK staff, he said.

Daycare separate issue

Although the district is also exploring the idea of a daycare, Couch indicated to the board that is a separate issue from the pre-school. He said at last month’s meeting he has made overtures to a property owner near EastElementary for a location to move the modular unit now used as classrooms. The modular could be offered to a private daycare provider, he said.Board members ClaySiemsen and ChrisPachta said they believe finding daycare and preschool services for small children “is a stress” for parents.

“After reading the survey, this is a need, that’s the way I felt,” said Siem- sen. “My only concern is that obviously, I don’t want to hurt any of these other businesses who are doing a great service to the community.

“When my kids were young, that is what stressed us the most: finding reliable daycare and someone who offered pre-school.”

Pachta said his two-year-old has had six babysitters. “It’s been a struggle,” he said.

Couch said if theschool establishes a daycare program, parentswould be charged localmarket rate.

“Anyone doing (private) day care is notcharging enough,” he said.

“They’re not covering retirement or insurance. It takes a lot to manage a daycare.”

The US Census estimates 253 children under the age of 5 live in Republic County. For children under the age of 18, 16 percent live in poverty and 52 percent participate in the free or reduced price lunch program (Source; Kansas kids Count).

According to 2015 data compiled by Child CareAware, Republic County had 15 family child care homes. Cost for childcare was more than $100per week, per child.

Data shows that 65percent of two-parent families have both parents working.

Summer programs

Because of construction, the last day of school will be Friday, May 10, and on the proposed calendar for 2019-20 classes would not resume until Tuesday, September 3.

Couch said the district may try to work with the Belleville SummerRecreation program to offer opportunities for elementary-age students to practice reading and math over the summer.

“Maybe we set up computers in the Commercial Building at the fairgrounds and it’s a rotation that the summer rec kids work on reading and math skills,” he said.“Maybe we partner with the (Belleville Public) Library to encourage kids to read and do the math.

“We’re trying to capture ways for kids to maintain their skills in reading and math.”