Changes are made: Board decides how to implement full day everyday kindergarten

The Dickinson Public School Board unanimously passed moving all district sixth graders for the 2007-2008 school year to P.S. Berg Elementary School while kindergarten through fourth grade students are to be dispersed through the other district el...

The Dickinson Public School Board unanimously passed moving all district sixth graders for the 2007-2008 school year to P.S. Berg Elementary School while kindergarten through fourth grade students are to be dispersed through the other district elementary schools at their regular meeting Tuesday evening.

The decision stems from the board's approval to offer the option of full day everyday kindergarten for district patrons at their March meeting.

Before the decision was made Tuesday, public forums this year and past strategic planning meetings discussed several options on how to implement full day everyday kindergarten.

The other options from previous discussions included moving Lincoln and Roosevelt Elementary School sixth graders or kindergarteners to Berg, moving all sixth graders or kindergarteners to Berg or moving one section of Lincoln and Roosevelt sixth graders or kindergarteners to Berg.

An option to have portable or temporary classrooms at Roosevelt and Lincoln to house full day everyday kindergarteners with Berg students and sixth graders remaining as they are today was nixed by the board right away in discussions.


At the public forums an Option E was brought up by the public which included either having three kindergarten sections or three sixth grade sections housed at Berg.

The biggest concern for the district with implementing full day everday kindergarten was the limited space for students in all district elementary schools which is why a change such as moving the sixth graders needed to be made.

The board was clear on stating Berg as a sixth grade only facility would stay in the elementary school setting and not change that setting.

"There is no intention from the district to turn Berg into a junior high or middle school," school board member Mitzi Swenson said. "I think it is advantageous if the sixth graders could meet their peers in an elementary school setting so when they go to Hagen they already know each other."

Additional reasons by the board and administration included moving the sixth graders around was better than moving the kindergartners, peer pressure noted in other schools usually occurs from older students and providing more curriculum sharing between teachers and staff.

The choice by the board to have all sixth graders at Berg also is a benefit cost-wise compared to the other options.

The district could see a savings of anywhere between $30,000-$100,000 by moving all sixth graders to Berg.

"We have to be fiscally responsible to taxpayers too," board member Leslie Ross added.


Another reason given by the board in support of their decision is avoiding a reduction in workforce due to declining enrollment for the district.

Due to the number of retirees and resignations this year, moving the sixth graders would be a way to keep from having any lay offs and instead reposition teachers and staff.

As for moving all of the sixth graders to Berg there were five public participants weighing in.

Arlyce Forthum Jackson and William Jackson cited several educational and other studies which gave reasons such as decline in self-esteem for adolescents and an increase in school dropout rates when sixth graders were removed from an elementary school setting.

"School districts should strive to enhance children's self-esteem and taking sixth graders out of their current setting doesn't enhance their self-esteem," Arlyce Forthum Jackson said.

The Jacksons' asked the board to enforce a 1-year moratorium on the proposed decision on moving sixth graders so a committee of board members and others could look into the best choice for the children.

Lonnie Doppler also participated and said she was not in favor of full day everyday kindergarten and felt moving all the sixth graders to Berg would force children to grow up too fast. Doppler has eight children, two going into sixth grade.

Sharon Wald gave a historical perspective to the board on why she didn't want to see all sixth grade students moved to Berg. Wald raised eight children all of which went to either public or private Dickinson schools.


Connie Kooren was the final participant who spoke to the board. Kooren has three sons who went through the Dickinson school system and kindergarten classes. He was in favor of the implementation of full day everyday kindergarten.

Funding priorities were also approved by the board Tuesday evening.

Previous funding items were listed in four categories after a special workshop meeting was done between school board members and district administrators this past school year.

Board members were asked to prioritize the list of top, high, medium and low funding priorities.

At the top of the list were district wide capital expenditures which would include updating the science facilities in Hagen Junior High School and Dickinson High School to include lab work stations and contracted services for plumbing, electrical and ventilation. This is a one time funding priority.

Next was a long term technology plan which would be an ongoing priority. Then came funding additional counselors where needed which would be ongoing and could change due to hiring availability.

Building safety was next and included installing three electronic door systems throughout the district and 11 security cameras. This also would be a one time funding priority.

The next priority was providing funding for high school hockey and baseball coaches. Then the board listed funding gifted education staff as the next to last priority. The final priority listed and approved by the board was providing additional Title I services for two district elementary schools.


Although priorities have been set by the board, funding is still being decided by the legislation with the new funding formula for all schools and will play into what exactly the district can fund and how.

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