Extra Kindergarten Options Grow for District 279 Parents

Some Maple Grove and Plymouth parents are paying more for all-day, educational kindergarten care in the Osseo School District 279.

Every year, a few hundred young children in get more than the typical kindergarten experience.

That’s because they participate in the district’s tuition-based, full-day kindergarten programs. Kindergarten Extra and Kindergarten Kidstop provide students with extended care and education. Though both programs have subtle differences, their popularity is steadily increasing among families in Maple Grove.

“We wanted to give families more choices,” Gail Maus, Community Education Coordinator for the Osseo School District, said. “Many families in our school district are shopping for the best program for their children. Tuition-based kindergarten gives those families one more option to consider.”

Kindergarten Extra just recently expanded from two to five schools in the district, four of which are in Maple Grove: , , and . 

However, the idea for the program was formed 10 years ago. Maus and Woodland Elementary School Principal Linda Perdaems partnered to find ways to sprinkle more choice throughout the district’s early childhood programs.

“It was a meeting of the minds between the two of us,” Maus said, reflecting on the collaboration. “After watching the success of tuition-based kindergarten programs in Apple Valley, Rosemount and Eagan, we decided that it was time to jump on the band wagon.”

According to the Osseo School District 279 kindergarten brochure, children enrolled in Kindergarten Extra—the newer and more expensive of the two tuition-based programs—gain educational enrichment opportunities.

Curriculum for the program are created by kindergarten teachers who aim to align activities with what students are learning in the classroom. While Kindergarten Kidstop focuses on language arts and social skill building, Kindergarten Extra is more academic in nature. According to Maus, both programs try to build children who are responsible, resourceful and respectful.

“Both Kidstop and Extra have different features that cater to the varying needs of families in our district,” Maus explained, “but both programs build social skills and include elements of play that are so important at that age.”

So, what’s the main difference? Unlike Kindergarten Kidstop, the students enrolled in Kindergarten Extra stay with their licensed kindergarten teacher after the half-day of school is over.

“Some children struggle with transitions,” Maus said. “Our Kindergarten Extra program provides that continuity.”

Children aren’t the only ones who benefit from Kindergarten Extra. Operating under the community services budget in the district, Kindergarten Extra tuition dollars go toward teacher salaries, curriculum enhancement and scholarships for families who need assistance with tuition.

The cost is $3,843 for a full school year spot in the Kindergarten Extra program, according to the district's website. Tuition dollars are housed in the Community Services Budget within the district and are distributed throughout the district which includes supplementing teacher salaries, curriculum enhancement and district marketing, according to Maus. Then, the leftover dollars go back into the Kindergarten Extra program/scholarships.

Because of the high demand of Kindergarten Extra, solidifying a spot in the program is more challenging than a typical before or after school daycare option. If more than 25 students enroll in any given program, the district hosts a lottery where applicants are chosen at random to participate. Children who are not accepted into the Extra program have the option of moving to the Kidstop program, if there is availability.

Already, the 2011-2012 Kindergarten Extra program is full. Applications for the 2012-2013 school year will be accepted in late winter or early spring of 2012.

The Osseo School District also offers a full-day tuition-free option designed for students who live in the attendance areas for the following Brooklyn Park Elementary schools: Crest View, Fair Oaks, Palmer Lake, Park Brook and Zanewood as well as Garden City Elementary school in Brooklyn Center. The district website states a combination of state funds pays the full-day costs for the tuition-free program.

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