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Two More Loudoun Schools To Get Full-Day Kindergarten

© Leesburg Today - 06/26/2015

Two more schools will offer full-day kindergarten this fall, the latest in Loudoun's gradual expansion of the program.

In a split vote Tuesday night, the county's School Board directed the superintendent to carve out $270,000 in the already-adopted FY16 budget to provide an extended academic day for every kindergartner at Forrest Grove and Sterling elementary schools.

That will bring the total number of kindergartners who get a six-hour school day to almost 1,500 out of about 4,880 countywide.

School Board member Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) made the proposal.

Forrest Grove and Sterling elementary schools have recently been designated as Title I schools, which means they qualify for additional federal funding because they enroll a large percentage of students from low-income families. For the past two years, the school district has provided every kindergartener at its four other Title I schools a full school day.

""Now that we have two more [Title I schools], we should consider giving them the equitable programming,"" Sheridan said.

Six other board members agreed.

""Full-day kindergarten benefits the at-risk kids the most. That's who we should focus on first and that's exactly who the Title I kids are,"" Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run) said.

""This is just implementing what we've already committed to as a board, that Title I schools receive full-day kindergarten,"" Vice Chairwoman Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) added.

Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) and board member Bill Fox (Leesburg) voted against the measure because they said they did not like the idea of shoehorning a program into the operating budget that was adopted in April.

""Even though I understand the spirit of it, I don't feel comfortable budgeting it in this way,"" Hornberger said.

Board members in favor of hiring the two teachers and two teachers assistants needed to provide full-day kindergarten at the two schools said Superintendent Eric Williams could tap into the ""class size contingency fund,"" earmarked in the budget to hire more teachers at schools where enrollment surpasses projections.

Or, Sheridan said, Williams could pull the money from wherever he thinks best.

""He is a wizard at realigning funds,"" she added.

Loudoun County is one of three school systems in Virginia that do not offer every kindergartner a full-day program. Board members agreed during the spring's budget approval process that academically at-risk students-those who are just learning English and those who live below or near the poverty line-should take priority as the program is gradually extended to school buildings that have space.

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