By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
On Friday, Madison County Schools announced the school board would be presented three options for implementing full-day kindergarten in August.
However, Superintendent Elmer Thomas sees one as “the only viable option.”
It would involve shutting down Mayfield Elementary as a school and converting its building into a kindergarten academy. Students who attend kindergarten there would enter first grade at Daniel Boone, Glenn Marshall, Kit Carson, Kirksville or White Hall elementary schools, according to a district news release.
To cost $930,000 annually, the option would include hiring 13 additional kindergarten teachers and 15 additional para-educators.
The second option, at an initial cost of $1.86 million, would start all-day kindergarten at each of the district’s 10 elementary schools. A one-time cost of $480,000 would provide 12 mobile classroom for overcrowded schools. The annual cost of the additional 20 teachers and 20 para-educators would be $1.38 million, according to the release.
The third option would include redistricting to create space at each elementary school and also would require 20 teachers and 20 para-educators for $1.38 million annually.
However, the cost of additional staff would continue to increase based on rising employment costs, a budgetary concern chief finance officer Debbie Frazier has expressed in the past.
Teacher retirement used to be totally state-funded, but at current staffing levels, the budget item is projected to reach $1.2 million in the 2015-16 school year, Frazier said during a May budget meeting.
The board is scheduled to consider the options Thursday at its regularly scheduled meeting, and Mayfield Elementary School PTO President Amy Kaylor hopes parents and teachers will show up to share their opinions on the proposal to shut down Mayfield as a school.
“Mayfield gives these students the special attention they may not get somewhere else,” Kaylor said. “They (district administrators) said this decision is in the best interest of the district, but what about students as individuals? What about ‘Every student counts?’” she said, referring to the Madison County Schools’ motto.
But Mayfield third-grade parent Shana Goggins said while she supports all-day kindergarten, the way parents found out about the proposal was “unacceptable.”
Although she had heard rumors of the district converting Mayfield into a kindergarten academy, the first time she heard any sort of “official” word was when her daughter came home and told her, she said. Her daughter had heard the news on the bus.
“How do I discuss this with my child, when it’s already being discussed at school? This is not the way information needs to come home,” Goggins said.
She predicts a large percentage of the nearly 300 Mayfield students “will not adjust well or receive the individualized attention they’ve gotten at Mayfield” if they are assigned to other schools.
However, Thomas said the district has a plan to transition the Mayfield students to other schools if the board adopts that option.
Starting sometime after Christmas break, students would visit their new schools, he said. The 11 teachers who would transfer out of Mayfield would be placed at each receiving elementary school so that students could see a familiar face when they arrived, he said.
Students would have the opportunity to meet with the new principal and talk to their new classmates to ease the transition, he added.
“I wish I could have talked to all of them (Mayfield parents) prior to the news coming out this morning,” Thomas said Friday afternoon. “Under this plan, students will be around people they know. I hope that will help a lot.”
A question-and-answer session is scheduled Nov. 25, he said, with time and location to be announced.
On Friday, when news of the proposal to close Mayfield school was announced over the intercom, “the kids were devastated,” said former Mayfield teacher Stephanie Winkler. Winkler was elected Kentucky Education Association president last year, but was asked to come by the school Friday for support.
She said Thomas came by the school that afternoon to speak with students and staff, and during his visit, a fourth-grader handed him a handmade petition to stop the closing of Mayfield. It was a notebook paper filled with names, Winkler said.
“I hate to see Mayfield closing as it exists,” she said. “But as an advocate for all-day kindergarten, I also support whatever avenue is most responsible for students and the finances of the district.”
But the Mayfield community is “hurting right now,” she said. For the most part, parents are upset because “they just wanted to be kept in the loop.”
Winkler said Mayfield currently has a lot of “wrap-around services” that support students with social and emotional needs. “Farm out those services to several different schools, and it becomes hard to provide them for those students.”
That is her greatest concern with the transition, she said. “The support system the school has in place for the neediest kids will become less accessible because of geographical divide.”
Thomas said the decision to include closing Mayfield as a school in the proposal “was not something we took lightly.”
The board voted in September to increase property taxes to generate an additional $1 million and pay for full-day kindergarten. A month later, it voted to implement full-day kindergarten in 2014.
Thomas said as he and a planning team began to look at options, they immediately saw that stand-alone kindergarten academies would be necessary at Waco and Kingston because of their locations on the edges of the district.
In Berea, the only place for an academy would be Shannon Johnson Elementary because Silver Creek Elementary would not have room.
But in Richmond, Mayfield was centrally located and within five miles of the surrounding elementary schools, and it had space, Thomas said. Kirksville has space as well, he said, but it would not be an ideal location for a kindergarten academy because of its location a few miles west of Richmond city limits.
“We’ve put a lot of plans on paper. We are working on full-day kindergarten every single day,” Thomas said. But some things must wait until the board makes its decision Thursday, he added.
The district also needs a better idea of how many students to expect, he said. Many have already pre-registered on the district’s website by filling out an online survey (Type “kindergarten pre-registration” into the search bar and click on the first option).
Thomas also will collaborate with the Madison County Early Childhood Alliance and its partner preschools and childcare centers to see how many parents are planning to enroll their children in kindergarten.
“One thing I truly believe with all my heart is that everything is an opportunity,” Thomas said. “This is an opportunity for us to unify as a district. For years, I’ve heard people say they want full-day kindergarten. Let’s get full-day kindergarten going.”
Thursday’s board meeting will begin 6 p.m. in the auditorium of Madison Southern High School on Glades Road in Berea.
The board decided several months ago to occasionally move its monthly meetings to Berea from its regular location at Madison Central High School to better accommodate visitor parking and those living in the southern part of the county.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.