AISD pre-K

From left to right: Assistant Superintendent of Learner Services Jennifer Wilhelm and Allen ISD President Amy Gnadt

Correction on Thursday, Nov. 11 at 4:25 p.m.: An earlier version of this story referred to the "ADA" acronym as one referring to the Americans With Disabilities Act when it was referring to "Average Daily Attendance."

Allen ISD could potentially keep pre-kindergarten classes operational on a half-day basis through as early as 2023.

Despite a 2019 state law mandating that such classes run on a full-day basis, the district was granted a three-year waiver by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) that will expire in 2022. In a Monday Allen ISD Board of Trustees workshop, Jennifer Wilhelm, Assistant Superintendent of Learner Services, said the district will have two options when the waiver expires: renew it or offer full-day pre-K classes.

Wilhelm told trustees that district staff recommends the former option.

“Filing this exemption renewal allows for us to monitor the various factors impacting enrollment and staffing for an additional year in the 22-23 school year before moving forward with such a significant decision for the district about where to place this program,” she said.

State law allows the TEA to issue a one-time exemption renewal should a district need more time to take preparatory action, whether it be done through the issuance of bonds or the construction or repurposing of a facility to accommodate full-day classes.

Currently, Allen ISD only offers two full-day pre-K classes while offering 32 half-day courses for the remaining student body. The two full-day courses are for emergent bilingual students and are both taught at Roundtree Elementary.

Should the district decide to offer full-day pre-K courses, Wilhelm said officials would have to decide between finding one centralized location to accommodate the student body or dividing courses up into dozens of classes between as many as six campuses. She added that this endeavor could include challenges such as fluctuated enrollment, low staff recruitment and Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funding only covering half-day instruction.

Allen ISD President Amy Gnadt concurred with Wilhelm’s assertion that the half-day waiver needs to be extended.

“There [are] so many other reasons why this needs to be delayed,” Gnadt said. “We probably couldn’t hire enough teachers, and there’s the half-day [ADA] funding. I mean, we’d have to work through that with the legislators, and giving us three years gives us the chance to do that.”

The Allen ISD Board of Trustees will vote on whether to extend the waiver or formally authorize full-day pre-K courses in a Jan. 24 meeting.

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