July 1, 2016
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – New Kansas City Public Schools superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell certainly knows how to make a splash on his first day of work.
On Friday, July 1 – what was his first official day as the new KCPS superintendent – Bedell announced in a press conference at the Woodland Early Learning Community School (711 Woodland Ave.) that the district will provide free seven-hour Pre-K education for 1,100 students beginning with the 2016-2017 school year.
“We are extremely proud of this opportunity,” said Bedell. “We know that around the country there’s a lot of research out on kids getting into school early, starting at the ages of three or four. It gives them an advantage and puts them on a trajectory where by the time they reach third grade, they’re on grade level.”
KCPS is leveraging funds made available by Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), state aid, federal funds like Head Start, and an in-district investment to make the free seven-hour school day for Pre-K students possible. According to the district, the cost to provide Pre-K programming is approximately $7,300 annually per student. KCPS Director of Early Learning Jerry Kitzi described how the district is undertaking its new early childhood endeavor.
“This year, as a provisionally accredited school district, we are allowed to count average daily attendance for a small percentage of Pre-K aged children,” said Kitzi. “That additional average daily attendance reimbursement from the state – that’s what really allows us to pull all these funds together to be able to provide a high-quality, no cost academic day.”
Additionally, the district is rolling out a before-and-after-school program with a sliding scale payment system for families who require Pre-K programming beyond the seven-hour day. A full-pay family in the Extended Day program, which runs from 7:30 a.m. t0 8:30 a.m. before school and 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. after school, would pay $184 per month. Families who qualify for free and reduced lunch would qualify for a reduced fee of either $138 or $92 per month, depending on income levels. Families who qualify for the Extended Day program will also be referred to Social Services to apply for a State Child Care Subsidy, which would further decrease costs related to Extended Day programming.
Because KCPS can’t provide transportation for its Pre-K programming, the district has made it a goal to spread Pre-K services throughout the district. In addition to Woodland and Richardson Early Learning, Pre-K programming will also be held in seven other district school buildings. Families with the greatest need, determined by a district point system, will have first dibs on the roughly 1,100 available Pre-K slots. Families can register their children for the program by visiting the Pre-K enrollment office at Manual Career & Technical Center (1215 E. Truman Rd.).
The afternoon press conference capped a whirlwind first day for Bedell, who participated in an all-day Tweet-along and made several media appearances before the big announcement.
“We must do everything possible to make sure our children get the preparation they need to succeed in school and achieve their dreams,” said Bedell. “Expanding Pre-K will be one very important part of our ongoing improvement process, and I can’t think of a better way to start my new job as the superintendent than to help make this announcement.”