July 15, 2013

Olympic View will provide free all-day kindergarten in September

Olympic View Elementary will be the first Oak Harbor school to offer free all-day every-day kindergarten to every incoming five-year-old in its attendance area. Olympic View is the only school on Whidbey Island to qualify for new state funding that is supposed to lead to all-day kindergarten statewide by 2018.

"This is a great thing for these kids," said Lance Gibbon, superintendent of Oak Harbor School District. "The best thing you can do to give students the best possible start as lifelong learners is to provide full-day every-day kindergarten."

Gibbon noted that Oak Harbor's three-year $2.1 million grant from the Department of Defense focuses on reading for preschoolers and elementary students for that reason.

The state is funding full-day kindergarten based on the percentage of students at each school who qualify for the federal "Free and Reduced Price Lunch" program. Olympic View has the highest "Free and Reduced" rate in Oak Harbor with 56.2 percent.

The recent legislative funding for kindergarten is considered a down payment of full funding of education, as required by a recent Washington Supreme Court decision.

"We look forward to the day we can offer full-day kindergarten at all Oak Harbor schools and are urging our legislators to meet their commitment to fund this as soon as possible," Gibbon said.

Oak Harbor will offer half-day every day kindergarten in its four other elementary schools. Olympic View parents can choose to attend a half-day program, but they will have to transfer to other schools to do so.

Gibbon said that it is not clear whether there will be any additional room in the Olympic View kindergartens for parents who would like to transfer to that school. If so, that availability will be communicated to parents in late August and students chosen through a lottery system, he said.

To gear up for just one school means Oak Harbor must now hire two new kindergarten teachers before the start of the school year, competing with about 300 elementary schools statewide trying to do the same thing.

Parents of Olympic View kindergarteners were notified by letter about the change last week.

Oak Harbor also offers fee-based full-day every-day kindergarten at Oak Harbor Elementary. The cost is $260 a month. Parents who are not already in that program can call the school district at 279-5000 to get on the waiting list. If enough parents sign up, the school might be able to add another class, Gibbon said.

The school district also offers free full-day kindergarten through the federal Title 1 program for qualifying students based on academic need. And it offers a free all-day program for qualifying kindergarteners in the special ed program.