The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 21, 2014

Declining enrollment means cuts for LSH

District eyes free preschool despite budget constraints

(Continued)

Sullivan said rumors indicate the gifted and talented program was discussed among teachers and administrators as being on the chopping block, and she heard another change being looked at is starting school later at 8:40 a.m., she said.

However, without listing specifics, Hanson emphasized the district is looking at a number of possibilities, as well as the impact those changes would have, and nothing has been decided.

One of the more controversial elements in the budget discussion with parents is the administration's proposal of a free preschool program. Currently, the district's preschool is tuition-based, although breaks are offered for families that can't afford to pay.

About $50,000 in additional revenue would be needed to offer a free program, Hanson said.

The reasoning is two-fold, he said. For one, offering free preschool could attract more families to enroll their children in the district, rather than choosing other preschools in the area. If students begin in the district's preschool, the theory is they would be more likely to stay enrolled in the Le Sueur-Henderson school district for K-12, thereby increasing enrollment over time and bringing more per-pupil funding into the district.

“There's concern of, 'Should we be looking at a program like this at the same time as (making) reductions?'” he said. “But the other part of it is if we don't introduce it, we're still going to have our enrollment concerns.”

The larger reason, however, has to do with ensuring students have access to preschool so that they are ready for kindergarten.

“Our real purpose is to provide opportunities for all children,” Hanson said.

The district preschool program is now offered at Hilltop Elementary in Henderson and Park Elementary in Le Sueur. Due to a spike in fourth- and fifth-grade class sizes, the preschool will have to be moved out of Hilltop next year, which otherwise only houses those two grades.

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