Manassas Journal Messenger | Budget would fund all-day kindergarten

About 1,577 kindergarteners are projected to be in full-day programs in Prince William County’s 18 Title I schools next year — that is if Superintendent Edward L. Kelly’s fiscal 2006 budget proposal comes to fruition.

Kelly presented his 2005-2006 school year budget to the school board at its Wednesday night meeting. The $652.6 million operating fund budget, which is 10.5 percent more than this year’s, includes a plan to expand full-day kindergarten to all students at Title I schools.

Title I schools are those with a high percentage of students receiving free and reduced-price lunch.

This year marked the start of a new initiative that allowed about half of each Title I school’s kindergarten population to be enrolled in full-day programs based on their performance on standardized tests.

The anticipated cost to expand the program next year is $1.4 million.

But Kelly doesn’t want to stop there, although his 18-year tenure with the school division will end in June.

Drawing on a recent feasibility study exploring the possibility of full-day kindergarten division-wide, Kelly is recommending that full-day kindergarten be implemented across the rest of the division in phases after the 2005-06 school year.

At-risk students at schools needing the least structural enhancements to house such programs should take precedence, but any start dates would be uncertain at this point, according to Kelly.

For those reasons, Kelly is recommending that future elementary schools be built with larger capacities so trailers and building additions don’t have to be added later in order to accommodate full-day kindergarten programs.

“I think that the way that this is being presented to you levels the playing field a little bit better,” Kelly said.

School Board Occoquan representative Grant Lattin, said constituents had complained that full-day kindergarten is being unfairly implemented in Title I schools first. Dumfries representative Betty Covington replied that this is necessary.

“These [at-risk] children definitely need the full-day kindergarten and all the remeediation that we can give them,” said Covington.

Kelly’s budget includes a $1.2 million fixed allocation for two elementary schools, “Glenkirk” and “Victory Lakes,” which are slated to open in the fall. A $704,000 startup cost is included for two elementary schools, “Princedale” and “Somerset,” and “Four-Year Trail” middle school, which are all slated to open in September 2006.

Within the five-year budget plan are costs for 10 new schools and three school additions that will provide space for the 12,000 new students who are projected by the 2009-2010 school year. The infrastructure changes, which will be completed with about $281 million in construction bonds, are being done in response to unprecedented enrollment growth during the past several years. School enrollment is projected to increase 5.1 percent to 69,081 students next year.

Kelly’s budget includes the addition of a step to the instructional pay scale in order to remain competitive with other school divisions. All employees will receive a 3 percent cost of living increase and most employees will receive a 3 percent step increase.

Compensation changes will increase the starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree to $37,615, and to $42,259 for a teacher with a master’s degree.

Kelly’s budget also includes $2.9 million for other new resources, including centralized registration for limited English proficiency students and the school division paying for more types of exams for students enrolled in advanced placement and vocational classes.

The school division receives most of its funding from the county, which allocates 56.75 percent of its uncommitted revenue to the schools annually. About $357.2 million, a 9.6 percent increase over this year’s amount, is projected for next year.

State and federal aid totaling about $328 million is also factored into Kelly’s budget.

The school board must approve a final budget by March 30.

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