Beginning Sept. 3, full-day preschoolers will attend school all week.
The Columbia Public School District is adding Fridays to the calendar and extending each school day by 24 minutes.
The move follows the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s statute to provide state financial aid to education programs only if the school district adopts a calendar that meets the minimum required contact hours per school year. Districts are required to provide 1,044 hours of instruction per academic year, effective for the 2019-20 school year.
“School districts this year may be starting earlier or making adjustments throughout the calendar year to build in more weather-related days, so there’s a wide range of options they can take to meet this hour requirement,” said Tyler Madsen, assistant director of communications for the education department.
“It’s one of those things where we have such a variation of districts across the state between rural, urban and suburban districts, so it’s a situation that districts can really make that applicable to whatever their situation is,” Madsen added.
District spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said state aid for preschool programming for the 2019-20 school year is expected to be upwards of $900,000 for Columbia Public Schools.
Last year, the district claimed about $725,000 in state aid for preschool programming, in addition to the $1.3 million in federal Title I funding toward early childhood education, Baumstark said. To receive this, Columbia Public Schools must meet the 1,044-hour requirement.
“It only makes sense to change how we are delivering our preschool program,” Baumstark said.
“It’s the same amount (of hours) as elementary, so we’ll be aligning those two, which makes a whole lot of sense because preschool is supposed to be the foundation that prepares (students) for a successful start in elementary school.”
Previously, Fridays were allotted for rotational home visits to families of preschoolers, as well as time for teachers to plan and collaborate on programming.
The new five-day preschool week will also allow for professional development and collaboration time for teachers, Baumstark said.
The district will continue to offer both full-day and half-day preschool programs.
“We feel it’s extremely important for our students to have that really strong start through a high-quality educational program so that they can be successful when they get to kindergarten,” Baumstark said.