Rhinelander school district plans to move to 4K program

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Discussion on extending a full day to five days at the next school board meeting

By Eileen Persike
Editor

Next fall, four-year-old Rhine children could have the opportunity to attend school full-time, five days a week. At the January 17 meeting, the Rhinelander School District School Board will discuss expanding the current Preschool or 4K program from two days a week to five days.

The operations and strategic planning committee heard the rationale for the change on Monday evening. Superintendent Eric Burke told the committee he heard about the inadequacy of the 4K program almost every time he visited one of the Rhine elementary schools.

“I think COVID certainly hasn’t helped, but we have students coming into kindergarten and even first grade where a lot of their basic skills aren’t there — their academic skills,” Burke said.

“Going to five full days, which the administration recommends, would provide a more stable environment for our younger learners with fewer transitions,” he added.

There are 147 students enrolled in 4K for 2021-2022. About half attend Monday and Tuesday and the remainder attend full day Thursdays and Fridays at the four elementary schools in the district; a dozen of these 147 participate in half-days at the Stevens Street site, in collaboration with Headstart. The five-day, all-day 4K would take place at all four elementary schools, as well as the YMCA at Northwoods Youth Development Center and the Stevens Street site.

The committee meeting was attended by several teachers from the district who support the expansion. Crescent 4K teacher Melissa Coleman said consistency and routine are important for development at this age.

“It’s very disadvantageous for our 4K kids at this point, in my opinion, to only go for two days,” Coleman said. “They come to us for two days, then they are on leave for five days. As they come back to us, sometimes it’s about relearning and having them relearn the skills that we learned last week. So just from an educational standpoint, I think extending it to four or five days would make academic sense for our younger learners in our district.

Since all four-year-olds go to school full-time, the question of how this might impact area daycares and other businesses has been raised.

“The thought process is that if you bring some of these 4Kers into the school setting or the Y setting where they have all-day coverage, that would open up places for younger people, like two- and three-year-olds. -an old crowd, ”said Rachel Hoffman, SDR’s director of education, learning and technology.

But Northwoods YMCA CEO Ryan Zietlow said there needed to be a conversation about how daycares in the community could be affected if all four-year-olds were pulled from daycares. This could, he said, lead to a crisis in child care.

“When you look at child care providers, infants and the two to two-and-a-half-year-olds are really balancing propositions,” Zietlow told the board. “Daycares cater to these age groups because it’s important to our community, but if that was the only population the daycares served, it would be very difficult to get there and there could be concerns. as to the longevity and durability of the childcare market. “

This is a situation that could hamper economic and workforce development in the community, he added, while noting that he would “give [kids] socially and academically what they need to thrive ”and then determine what support is needed to achieve that.

“The short answer is, I think it must be of concern when we look at today’s question about other businesses’ income that might be taken out of a five-day-a-week full-day program, it could potentially be the case, “Zietlow continued. “What exactly that impact would be, I’m not sure.”

Despite these concerns, committee member David Holperin said he believed the board was ready for a vote.

“It clearly seems affordable, it seems desirable, it seems practical, so I see no reason why a board member would say no,” Holperin said.

Burke said the administration believes the move to five days is better for students and families, and will move a motion to move Monday’s agenda forward.

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