|PHOTO: G. Michael Graham. Fort Thomas resident Rob Heilman (right) listens during the monthly Fort Thomas Independent School District Board of Education meeting Monday. Heilman and some other parents hope to see another all-day Kindergarten class added at Johnson Elementary School next year.|
For years, there has been four all-day Kindergarten classes at the three elementary schools in the Fort Thomas Independent School District.
There has been one at each school then a second one that has rotated among the three schools. The second all-day class will be at Moyer Elementary next year because parents of 40 students slated to go there have signed up for it. There were 37 requests at Johnson Elementary and just 11 at Woodfill.
But parents like Rob Heilman want to see a second all-day Kindergarten class added to Johnson Elementary because it is the closest to his house. Heilman's child is one of 15 that did not get put on the list for the all-day Kindergarten class at Johnson Elementary. The selection process is based on a lottery when more students sign up for a class than is allowed at that school.
He said that the most important reason why he wants to see a change in the process is so that she will have consistency in where she attends school in grades 1-5.
The minimum number of students needed for a full-day class is 18 students and the maximum number is 24. The district enrolls 22 students per class as part of a lottery system and keeps two spots open. One spot is retention purposes for those students who need to retake Kindergarten and the other is for a child that moves into the school district. Children who retake Kindergarten are required to be there a full day. But FTIS Superintendent Dr. Gene Kirchner said those spots will be filled before school starts.
Heilman and other parents may have to send their children to a school that is further away or have to send them for a half-day five days a week if a second all-day class is not added to Johnson Elementary. Heilman also has an older child in elementary school.
"If we didn't have the (second) all-day at Moyer, they were going to have an overflow from their afternoon half-day classes that would have caused us to create another section of Kindergarten there," Kirchner said. "Putting the all-day Kindergarten there kept us at the current staffing that we have because there's room for the Johnson parents in the other two all-day programs at Moyer and Woodfill. Then there's room in their half-day programs to accommodate those students if that's what they wish to do. Once you add a fifth all-day class with no more students than we have now, then the district ends up losing money in the process."
Heilman said he and other parents have heard similar stories in terms of the financial side of having just four all-day Kindergarten classes. But while he admitted other parents and himself do not have the knowledge that the administrators do, Heilman pointed out that the tuition is $2,700 per student and the state matches it and there has been a surplus of multi-million dollars from the general fund from the past four fiscal years. The state of Kentucky only funds half-days for Kindergarten students in the FTISD. Heilman said the $81,000 generated from that could be applied to a full-day class.
"We're not necessarily pushing for Woodfill's (All-Day Kindergarten class) to be moved because we understand the one at each (school)," Heilman said. "But Woodfill didn't make minimum numbers so that may be an option to meet this year's demand."
Heilman also said he and other parents want an open discussion with the board to minimize the
impacts of other parents in the future. Heilman pointed out that parents living on Mel Lawn Drive that have to send their kids to Woodfill Elementary have to venture through seven schools worth of traffic.
"Even if the 15 families end up going to Woodfill, should that be the option presented?" Heilman said. "That still means there's 15 families going across the city so how can we minimize that to the least amount of families that have to do this commute? Lord willing, we're finished with children and that's the plan so this isn't something I need to worry about personally. But moving forward, I'd like to see it for my family and friends. It seems like every third year, there's a definite need to change this process."
Kirchner then pointed out that most school districts the size of FTIS do not offer all-day Kindergarten classes. Kirchner has been district superintendent since 2012 and has also worked at Walton-Verona Independent School District. He also said parents at Woodfill would be in the same situation as Heilman and the other parents if they are asked to move.
"We do not look at this as Johnson or Moyer or Woodfill," Kirchner said. "We look at this as a district. We look at those numbers as a district. We try to balance it out and make it work. The only interest that (Assistant FTIS Superintendent) Jon Stratton, the principals and those involved have is to make it work. There's no incentive for us to manipulate that in any way, but to provide the service for our families in the most fiscally responsible way that we can as a district."
Stratton and Kirschner said they will look at the numbers and come up with something to present to the board regarding the whole process. Board Member Brad Fennell even said the process should be looked at and changed if necessary. Stratton said he will communicate the process to Heilman and other families affected by the process.
Aside from that, FTIS Director of Operations, Jerry Wissman, provided updates on Phase Four of the Highlands High School Renovation that includes the new field house and the renovation of the gym. He also gave updates on the new football field turf and Moyer Elementary Renovation process. Wissman said they are all going well.
"I have been there when groups come in (to the field house) for the first time and they are overwhelmed positively when they walk in and see things," Wissman said. "So far, the kids have done a good job of taking care of the place. When they go to the weight room, when our groups are finished, (the kids) put everything back where it was when they started. For the baseball and softball teams, it's been a Godsend getting in there because with the weather, they couldn't do anything outside."
Stratton then gave the audience an update on the Title IX revisit which requires equal opportunity for both genders when it comes to high school sports. He said Highlands is satisfactory on pretty much everything and it is hard for school their size to get a satisfactory mark on some things because of its size.
Fennell then presented items for approval to the other two present board members in Lisa Duckworth and John Weyer before adjourning. That included the Highlands Band trip to Indianapolis on Nov. 12 to 14.