By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE – Approval of a plan to offer a transitional kindergarten program beginning this fall not only benefits students not quite ready to begin their education, but reflects a district moving forward after several years of budget cuts and difficult decisions.
“It’s exciting to think about something new, pro-active and designed to help students,” Southgate Community Schools Supt. Leslie Hainrihar said. “Any time you can offer new programming it’s exciting.”
The board of education last month approved the introduction of a transitional kindergarten that Hainrihar said was similar to “Young Five” programs for children who, either socially or academically, would be better off waiting a year to begin classes but still in need of pre-education.
“It’s much better than enrolling and find out they’re not ready,” Hainrihar said. “This is about getting them ready for when they’re old enough.”
Class sizes will be limited to no more than 18, Hainrihar said, and this month’s enrollment for the 2015-16 school year – including school-of-choice applications – will determine how many of the expected 200 students will, through screening, be determined eligible for the program. Traditional kindergarten class sizes are kept at about 25 students, she said.
The program will not require additional cost to the district, she said, which has struggled in recent years like many in the state with declining enrollment and the resulting loss of state funds. The 2014-15 academic year opened with three fewer buildings after the closures of Gerisch Middle School and Chormann and North Pointe elementary schools, decisions that came on the heels of staff layoffs and other budget cutbacks.
Last fall’s “count day” of student population indicated a more stable district, which last year passed a balanced budget. The district anticipates eliminating a deficit by next year that had reached nearly $5 million.
Rather than explore further reductions, Hainrihar said the new kindergarten program next year joins new courses being offered: a high school women’s history course that, Hainrihar said, had been proposed by students and a teacher, and a dramatic-reading class for middle school students to complement the district’s thriving drama program.
Parents with questions about the school’s transitional kindergarten program can contact the administration office at 734-246-4600 for more information.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected].)