All-day kindergarten now no-cost at five additional West Seattle elementary schools

Word spread quickly at Alki Elementary in West Seattle on Friday, Nov. 1 as staff learned they were one of five schools on the peninsula who will be able to provide full day kindergarten to their students at no charge.

“It is a very good thing for us, we are pretty excited, and as news has spread through the building today teachers and parents are getting excited,” Alki Elementary Principal Shannon Stanton said.

Seattle Public Schools made the announcement on Nov. 1 that 16 elementary schools citywide would join 27 already offering no-cost full day kindergarten to families. For West Seattle the new schools include Alki, Arbor Heights, K-5 STEM at Boren and Pathfinder K-8. Those already offering the service here include Highland Park, Roxhill, Sanislo and West Seattle Elementary.

The change takes effect immediately, and families who have already paid for full-day kindergarten at schools now offering the free service will be offered a refund, according to SPS.

SPS spokesperson Teresa Wippel said the funding is “thanks to a change in how the District can use $2.4 million in state dollars from the Learning Assistance Program (LAP) …”

For schools that didn’t make the list, Wippel said (if approved by the school board on Nov. 20) parents will pay a reduced rate of $283 a month instead of the current $311 and will be refunded the difference going back to Sept. 1, 2013.

“Families who paid through PayPams by credit card will receive a refund check byJan 31,” Wippel added. “District Accounting will discontinue withdrawing the kindergarten fees from families in the 16 additional fully-funded schools, effective immediately.”

The original 27 schools receiving free kindergarten were selected because at least 50 percent of the student population qualifies for free or reduced lunch, according to SPS. The new program includes schools where at least 25 percent qualify.

Back at Alki Elementary, only hours after the announcement, Principal Stanton said they had already sprung into action – calling parents with children enrolled for half-day (which was free before the change) to let them know their children can attend full day kindergarten at no extra charge, and calling those who have been paying for full-day to let them know a refund check is in the works.

“This is big savings for them,” Stanton said, before adding the importance goes well beyond dollars and cents.

“It means we can offer high quality early learning for all of our families at no additional cost,” she said. “Early learning intervention: that’s the key. All the research points to early learning experiences (as important to school success) and now we can provide that free of charge.”

According to Wippel, Washington State’s Legislature “has said the state will fully fund all-day kindergarten in all schools by 2017. Seattle Public Schools will set aside LAP funding to continue supplementing full-day kindergarten until 2017.”

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