The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 21, 2014

Declining enrollment means cuts for LSH

District eyes free preschool despite budget constraints

(Continued)

There is plenty of room for all preschool sections at Park, but the district is looking at several options for locations in Henderson to keep the preschool in the community. Part of the concern is transportation costs for busing from Henderson to Le Sueur and another is having to put preschool-age kids on a bus at all.

Dozens of parents attended a recent School Board meeting and work session to learn details of the free preschool proposal and location possibilities. District officials have looked at the Knitting Knest, Henderson Public Library, St. Joseph Parish and Saint Paul’s United Church of Christ. But none has the required fully automatic fire sprinkler systems.

The decisions on the preschool changes will be made either at Monday's board meeting or April 7.

Sullivan said parents have been frustrated with a lack of evidence for a free preschool program, including how many children aren't attending preschool because they can't afford it, and how many additional students the program is expected to attract, among other things.

"They're making this large decision without a lot of background knowledge," Sullivan said. "I'd rather see those funds go to supporting programs in our schools instead of being cut."

Hanson said despite the budget constraints, it's important that the district carefully examine the impact of all changes and keep making improvements when possible. As an example, he said: The curriculum coordinator position over a period of years had been whittled down, eventually to just one or two hours per day. That led to the district not staying current with curriculum, which ended up having an impact on learning.

“We didn't realize the consequences of that until a few years later, so we're very cognizant of that,” Hanson said, adding that the position has now been restored to half time. “Even though you need to look at reductions, you still need to be looking at improvements as well. You have to be doing both. If you just cut, cut, cut, that's not going to work.”

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