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Full-day preschool will be offered to four-year-olds next school year following action at the Monday, February 8 meeting of the Mount Ayr Community school board.
Currently, four-year-old students attend half-day preschool sessions at the Family Resource Center.
Under the new plan, students will be divided equally among three sections of all-day preschool, with no separate section devoted strictly to students eligible for Head Start.
Preschool will be offered four days a week, but final decisions on which days are yet to be made.
Early plans are to locate two classrooms at the Mount Ayr elementary building and one still at the Resource Center.
At Monday’s meeting, Mount Ayr kindergarten teachers Katie Coulson and Kristin Graham spoke in favor of the plan to better prepare young students to enter kindergarten.
Mount Ayr elementary instructional coach Jill Weehler presented data to support the proposal, including statistics that show academic proficiency of Mount Ayr students lags behind those students in neighboring districts that offer all-day preschool.
She also identified a long list of other advantages, including lower student-teacher ratios, more time available for additional individual help, increased speech services, access to library materials, availability of a school nurse, and many others.
Brenda Adams, director of the Family Resource Center (FRC), spoke to the board about the importance of maintaining child care services in Mount Ayr.
She warned that removing the four-year-old preschool from under the direction of the Resource Center would negatively impact the FRC’s financial stability and could jeopardize its ability to continue to offer three-year-old preschool and daycare for children of area residents.
She listed over 100 employees of area businesses who rely on the Family Resource Center for their childcare needs.
In addition, Adams reported the FRC currently employs 18 individuals with an annual payroll of approximately $360,000, most of which is pumped back into the local economy.
Mount Ayr superintendent Jason Shaffer repeatedly stated his recognition of the value of the Family Resource Center and the district’s need to work with the FRC to minimize any negative financial effects stemming from the proposed changes.
PJ West, who serves both on the Mount Ayr school board and on the board of the Family Resource Center, stated her dilemma in seeing the academic advantages of the full-day preschool as well as its impact on the FRC.
If the full-day plan is approved, she stressed the need for the district to work closely with the FRC to serve the needs of all children in the district.
“We need each other,” she said.
With that, West made the motion to proceed with plans to offer the full-day preschool next year. The motion passed 4-0, with board member Rod Shields absent from the meeting.
The board approved the school calendar for the 2021-2022 school year.
Students will report to the first day of school on Tuesday, August 24.
The last day of classes is scheduled for Tuesday, May 24.
Students will be in class for 177 days or 1,112.5 hours. In presenting the calendar, superintendent Shaffer said adjustments will be discussed to balance the number of days in each semester.
A total of seven days have been set aside for professional development for teachers including four before classes begin in the fall and one after students leave for summer. Another 12 days of early dismissals are included for professional development. Shaffer explained some professional development days may be used for instruction if the need arises.
Thanksgiving break begins with an early dismissal on Wednesday, November 24.
Christmas break will run from an early dismissal on Wednesday, December 22 through Monday, January 3, with students returning Wednesday, January 4.
Spring break begins with an early dismissal for parent-teacher conferences Thursday, March 10 through Sunday, March 20.
In other business the board:
• accepted the resignations of Deb Larsen as elementary PE and cross country coach, Jodie Houchin as high school science teacher, and Mariah Mason as co-head volleyball coach.
• approved the hiring of Sara Winemiller as middle school softball coach.
• received preliminary details for the upcoming FY22 district budget. Superintendent Shaffer predicted no increase in the tax rate for the coming year. He said property valuations had increased nearly $20 million over the current year, but local revenues were down about $13 million due in part to the closing of Shopko, CGI, and other factors.
• approved a bid from Southern Iowa Tech for $9,880 for upgrades to the district’s Internet network cable system.
• approved a bid from Glendenning Motors of Mount Ayr for the purchase of a new pickup for $26,912. The board also approved the purchase of a new V-blade for $6,100 or straight blade for $5,100 for installation on the pickup. The board left the decision on which blade to purchase to district maintenance director Clint Poore.