Pre K communications

A couple weeks ago I sent an email to a Duluthian who sent a query to the School Board about where we would put all the Pre Kindergartners if we were required to educate them under the Governor’s proposal. I sent my reply to all the Board members and the Superintendent then posted it on my blog.

Today I found that the Superintendent wrote a response as well but having lost the email of the person who sent me the email sent it only to the School Board. I called up the Duluthian and read him the Superintendent’s reply. It begins with a note to the Board:

William Gronseth
May 28 (5 days ago)

Dear Member Welty & School Board Members,

I wrote a response for Mr. ***** then realized his email address was
not included. I will share my response with the school board

Dear Mr. *******,

I received your email regarding capacity for PreK programming through Member Welty.

We have been following this topic in the legislature with great interest for a number of reasons. While we fully support early learning and appreciate the role it can play in closing the opportunity gap, we do have some concerns regarding implementation.

The first of which is financial. In the past few decades we have experienced a dwindling budget in education. We have increased class sizes, gone from a 7 period to 6 period day, lost programming, and have had year after year of drastic reductions. Had we not closed several buildings in the process of the long range facilities plan,
those cuts would have been even deeper.

Duluth residents really showed their support in 2013 by passing both levels of the referendum. This allowed us to invest in reducing class sizes, updating our curriculum, and take further steps to close the opportunity gap. In the same year, the legislature increased the funding for kindergarten from half-time to full-time. Because Duluth had already decided to invest in free full-day kindergarten, this allowed the general fund dollars to be invested elsewhere. Capacity for full-day kindergarten was an issue in many other communities, but our buildings were built with this in mind.

We have a similar situation for early learning programs. We currently have spaces that accommodate our strong partnership with Head Start, and pre-school programs that are run by the school district and other organizations. In addition to early learning services within our schools, there are a many privately run pre-schools in Duluth and the surrounding area. How we would accommodate for expanding our early learning programs would depend greatly on the legislation that is passed. Knowing that pre-schools run by others would also play a role in this programming, in most cases we would be able to accommodate additional Pre-K programming in our schools. Some schools may require slight boundary adjustments to provide more capacity.

Thank you for your interest. Please feel free to contact me with further questions or concerns.

Bill Gronseth

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I would quibble with the Superintendent. His reasoning suggests that we would have had even worse financial problems had we not proceeded with the Long Range Facilities Plan when, to my reckoning, we ended up paying for it with what once were operational dollars making it necessary for us to lay off teachers, cram more kids in class and eliminate programming. Still, we both seem to agree that finding room for Pre Kindergarten would pose a challenge.

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