Full-day pre-kindergarten is now required for public school districts throughout the state.
Now, Lewisville ISD has to figure out how to make it work.
As a result of House Bill 3, districts across Texas will receive the Early Education Allotment, which provides funding to help students improve performance in reading and math, including supporting full-day pre-K for eligible 4-year-olds.
During a recent Board of Trustees work session the district staff presented early projections on what will be needed to incorporate full-day pre-K and what it will cost.
Superintendent Kevin Rogers stressed that the projections are rough estimates since it’s not known how many parents would want to send their child to a full day of pre-K.
Heidi Veal, early childhood programs administrator, said overall the district is projecting that 1,600 to 2,000 4-year-olds would be eligible for a full-day pre-K program, as would 600 3- and 4-year-olds from the Early Childhood Special Education program. There are between 58 and 68 new classes projected.
Based on those numbers district leaders said the cost to implement the program will likely be more than the $5 million LISD is expected to get from the state.
Veal said for the whole district the total expected cost of staffing growth is $5.5 million, plus $2.5 million in start-up costs and an unknown amount for bathroom renovations. Veal said the estimates don't include bus transportation costs.
Veal said the feeder patterns for Flower Mound and Marcus high school, for example, are each projected to add six to eight classes over a three-year period with a total growth of 60 to 120 students each. She said the anticipated cost for each of the two feeder patterns is $570,000 in personnel – a certified teacher and a teacher's aide in each class – plus $280,000 in start-up costs.
She said the expansion is projected to serve 200-250 total students in each feeder pattern.
Veal said the district would receive weighted average daily attendance (WADA) funding from the new students, approximately $1.7 million.
“But when you start looking at it from the additional staffing costs and the start-up costs to create these classrooms, you can see pretty quickly that the $5 million Early Education Allotment doesn't even come close to covering the expansion,” Veal said.
Further, board members were concerned on where the additional staff will come from.
“Where are we going to find 58-68 qualified, certified (teachers),” said Trustee Kristi Hassett, “especially when Argyle and Carrollton are going to be doing the same thing?”
There is some room to adapt, however. Districts will be eligible to receive one- two- or three-year waivers if the district shows a lack of space or potential reduced pre-K enrollment. Adrienne Gall, executive director of elementary curriculum and programs, said LISD has both of those.
To apply for the waiver the district would be required to solicit and consider partnerships with high quality providers before repurposing, building or leasing new facilities for pre-K.
The waiver will be available no later than Jan. 1. Districts can renew the waiver for up to three additional years.
“There's no doubt we need to apply for a three-year waiver because even as we start to in phases implement the law, we're not going to be able to fully implement it,” Rogers said.
Rogers said LISD will continue to offer half-day pre-K for 4-year-olds and may expand up to 16 new full-day 4-year-old classes in 2020-21.
“The sad thing is to make that work we may have to discontinue serving 3-year-olds,” Rogers said, adding that the district may revisit that in areas where there is more space.
Board members were discouraged by the possibility of not being able to serve 3-year-olds.
“I know there's probably not a great, substantial amount of learning in terms of the three 'R's' going on,” Board President Katherine Sells said. “But we know it helps because it prepares them to learn. And it just breaks my heart that we would lose some of that.”
Rogers said the district will likely make a decision about whether to discontinue its 3-year-old program by January.
Rogers said the district may need to allow the crossing of feeder patterns for pre-K since finding space at several campuses for a full-day of new students will be a challenge, especially in the Lewisville High School pattern that projects to have 1,100 to 1,200 pre-K students. Board members said they are OK with that.
Rogers said the staff will continue looking at options and get more refined details from the state before presenting items to the board for a vote.