A quarter of county elementary schools do not have the capacity to sustain full-day kindergarten.
Full-day kindergarten has been a hot topic issue in Loudoun, and on April 18 the Loudoun County School Board convened a work session focused on developing a multi-year plan to offer all eligible students the opportunity to attend full-day kindergarten.
While cost is a factor, so is space. In collaboration with the Board of Supervisors, the School Board plans to open two new elementary schools and construct three-classroom additions at six elementary schools — Arcola, Rosa Lee Carter, Creighton’s Corner, Legacy, Liberty and Pinebrook — within the next three school years. Three additional elementary schools and three-classroom additions at six more elementary schools are planned within the next eight school years to provide all-day kindergarten.
At the afternoon work session, board members examined school-by-school information on anticipated capacity to for the 2018-2019 school year as well as the two subsequent school years.
Ten of the 40 schools in the Ashburn, Central Loudoun, Eastern Loudoun and Western Loudoun planning areas may lack the space to offer full-day kindergarten from FY19 to FY21. It also is unlikely that all schools in the Dulles North and Dulles South planning areas would have space by FY21, even though one elementary school is scheduled to open in each of these planning areas within the next three school years, Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Public Information Officer Wayde Byard said.
The work session focused on strategies to expand universal full-day kindergarten to those schools as well.
“I’m pleased that the School Board is strategically considering a wide variety of approaches to move forward with expanding FDK through a measured, purposeful approach,” School Board Chair Jeff Morse (Dulles) said prior to the work session. Morse represents some of the fastest-growing areas of Loudoun County.
One option for further expanding in Dulles North and Dulles South would be accelerating the construction of new schools in planning zones that are scheduled to open in the fall of 2022 and 2023, Byard said.
“If we consider any possible acceleration of school construction to expand full-day kindergarten, it will be crucial that LCPS staff collaborate with County staff and that the School Board collaborate with the Board of Supervisors,” LCPS Superintendent Eric Williams said. “We greatly appreciate the support from the County in our efforts to ensure that we have the space to meet needs relating to enrollment growth and the expansion of FDK.”
The board also considered placing modular units and classroom additions at schools that lack universal capacity, offering parents the opportunity to enroll their kindergarten students at another school if their children are assigned to schools where it is not yet universal, or increasing reliance on mobile laptops in lieu of computer labs in order to better utilize existing space.
Lastly, the board considered redrawing attendance boundaries, often a controversial issue. The process of any future targeted attendance boundary changes would include notification of the potentially affected attendance zones, as well as the opportunity for public comment regarding the possible targeted changes, Byard said.
LCPS staff emphasized that next fall they want to analyze the impact on actual enrollment of establishing universal full-day kindergarten at specific schools before determining the timing and attendance zones potentially affected by redrawing of boundaries.
The board also reviewed data on full-day kindergarten growth since the 2014-2015 school year, when 11 percent of kindergarten students were served, to the current school year, when 52 percent of kindergarten students are being served, Byard said.
Vision 20/20 calls for providing 75 percent of kindergarten students with FDK in the 2017-2018 school year, while reaching the 80 and 85 percent thresholds in the subsequent two school years. Vision 20/20 also calls for articulating a multi-year plan to offer all kindergarten students the opportunity to attend FDK.
The board also received information regarding the possibility of overflowing limited numbers of new students seeking to enroll in overcrowded schools with universal FDK to schools with capacity for additional students.
LCPS staff recommends that, as a next step, the Joint Committee of the School Board and Board of Supervisors discuss the parameters for the 100 percent full-day kindergarten plan. That discussion could precede the adoption, later this school year, by the School Board of the multi-year 100 percent plan.
“Our 100 percent plan will focus our work to expand full-day kindergarten in the coming years,” School Board Vice Chair Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) said before the work session. “This plan will demonstrate and support our commitment to provide all of our students the opportunity to attend full-day kindergarten.”