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As Flagler District Prepare to Offer Voluntary Pre-K at all 5 Elementary Schools, Board Questions Raising $60 Fee

| March 19, 2014

For the first time, the Flagler County school district will be offering voluntary pre-kindergarten programs at each of its five elementary schools, starting in the fall of 2014. (Josie Holford)

For the first time, the Flagler County school district will be offering voluntary pre-kindergarten programs at each of its five elementary schools, starting in the fall of 2014. (Josie Holford)

For the first time, the Flagler County school district will be offering Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten throughout the district starting this fall. But the School Board is struggling over the $60-a-week fee currently charged to parents who enroll their children in extended instruction programs before and after VPK hours. Because of the VPK expansion, the school administration is leaning toward raising the fee, perhaps to $65. The board is not eager to do so, at least not yet.

What’s almost certain is that the $60 fee will not go up for the remainder of this year: board members don’t want to sticker-shock it to parents in the middle of a school year. But they appeared more amenable to raising the fee next fall as they discussed the matter in a board meeting Tuesday evening.

Voluntary pre-kindergarten has been available at two school sites so far. Beginning in August, VPK will be available to any child who is 4 years old before Sept. 1. The half-day program will be offered at each of the five traditional elementary public schools in the county, Monday through Friday. Parents have an option to enroll their child in the morning or afternoon sessions, for a total of 540 hours over the year. That will enable children to attend VPK in the same school where they will then go on to kindergarten the following year.

Students would attend the schools in their zones, but school choice is available for VPK. Transportation, however, is the parents’ responsibility, with free breakfast available to all students, and free and reduced lunch provided for students who stay for wrap-around care. Special education students will also be attending their home-zoned schools in an inclusion setting with all other VPK students. Specialized transportation will be available for special education students.

VPK is wrapped by preschool and afterschool care, or extended day, at each of the sites, what the district calls wrap-around care. The current weekly fee for that wrap-around care is $60. Students may be at the school site from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (which compares with rates by private providers ranging from $50 to $125).

The fee may change, possibly to $65, Superintendent Jacob Oliva said, in order to provide additional services. “Our goal is to get as many children as we can in this program and we want to make it as accessible as possible for families that are struggling,” Oliva said. At the same time, the district wants to be able to staff the program appropriately.

The Early Learning Coalition of Flagler and Volusia has some financial aid available to eligible families. But every advertisement for VPK that’s circulated this year has listed the $60 fee for wrap-around care. School board members were concerned about changing the fee now, since it’s been set.

“The program has historically run in the black, but what we have to understand is that we’re expanding this program” beyond its current scope, Oliva said. For example, the district wants to provide para-professionals to assist teachers at each site and create a more solid “infrastructure” to support the VPK expansion. “We are getting a lot of wonderful feedback from families that are showing feedback and are very excited about having their children participate in VPK in the same school where they’ll attend kindergarten,” Oliva said.

“My concern is that we start the program and come January we go oops, we’ve got to up it by $25 or a significant amount” that parents aren’t ready for, board member Sue Dickinson said.

Before approving a higher fee, Board member Trevor Tucker wants a breakdown of the costs to run the expanded VPK program and ensure that the fee cover the start-up costs.

“We’ll make a decision whether to increase the fee at that time,” board member Colleen Conklin said. “I’m excited to see how it grows, really,” Conklin said.

Almost 700 VPK vouchers have been issued to families for students in Flagler County. But with every grade level in the district averaging 1,000 students, the district administration estimates that there must yet be some 300 eligible students who have not enrolled in VPK, but should. The district is making an effort to reach those students.

Projected enrollment and faculty is as follows (keeping in mind that the number of students reflects those who will be attending VPK as well as those who will attend VPK and extended care. Classrooms will be organized accordingly):

Belle Terre Elementary: three classrooms, 66 students, six teachers.
Bunnell Elementary: four classrooms, 88 students, eight teachers.
Old Kings Elementary: two classrooms, 44 students, four teachers.
Rymfire Elementary: four classrooms, 88 students, eight teachers.
Wadsworth Elementary: four classrooms, 88 students, eight teachers.

Summer Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten, or VPK, is available in a 300-hour program, as required by law, from June 9 through Aug. 8 at Bunnell Elementary. The program is offered daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. But it’s available only to students who’ll be entering kindergarten in fall, but who were not enrolled in a VPK program before the summer.

Pre‐registration for summer and fall is under way. Parents can call their
home‐zoned school to be placed on the pre‐registration list. Registration packets must be submitted to finalize registration after May 1. Placement will be on a first come, first served basis.

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8 Responses for “As Flagler District Prepare to Offer Voluntary Pre-K at all 5 Elementary Schools, Board Questions Raising $60 Fee”

  1. Florida Native. says:

    Despite the poor leadership on the Flagler County School Board and their bloated salaries,the expensive Apple laptops,bloated teacher salaries,ad nauseum, you would think charter schools and Montessori schools would be popping up on every street corner but they’re not. Crazy dumbed down and apathetical county.

    • RC says:

      Bloated teacher salaries? Teachers start off at $38,000 a year. Although perhaps the School Board should be a voluntary position, I believe their salaries are around $15k. I guess I just don’t understand what you’re talking about.

      Also, charter schools are not popping up every where because there is absolutely no evidence that they are any better than public schools. They are ran by for profit organizations, where making money is priority number one, not students education.

    • JoeJoe says:

      Teachers are far from having “bloated salaries” and the new computers were needed and Apple gave the district a great deal on a lease.

    • Out of Curiosity says:

      Yes, those grossly overpaid teachers are at fault again.

    • Tampa Native says:

      Dear Flagler Live,

      Often times I want to post things that I know will not be approved, can you put a thumbs down button on your comments section. I really want to reply but cannot come up with a polite way to respond to some of these posts on here.

  2. fruitcake says:

    The reasoning behind the increase is flawed.
    While the VPK program that is currently in place is great…there is no reason to provide
    additional services and if your worried about making it accessible to struggling families why are
    you raising the cost at all? The more kids that sign up the more money comes in so you can pay
    for more staff as required.

  3. shucks says:

    Florida Native, Yes, the salaries compared to the remainder of the hard-working, less “paid” attention to staff, is sad; however, the lap-tops have added wonders to the access for my children. NO fighting over who needs to use the computer for one. At $50.00 a school year, I’ll releive myself of the arguing. Their grades and the creativity they are able to explore as a result of hours in reduction of shared computer time, is a blessing. and have you actually ever sat in a board meeting? The board and the upper admin really DO care. The salaries again, yes, a bit extreme, but really? Now you blame the “county”. Montessori schools limit the studies a child can have. charter schools are limited in providing services to students with disabilities. Public schools are open to all.

  4. A.S.F. says:

    @Florida Native says (and others of like mind)–Perhaps if the teachers had a “wellness center” at their schools, like some OTHER government employees I might name, they would do better (sarcasm intended.)Stop using teachers as your punching bag!

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