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Published: Tuesday, 2/23/2010

Oregon to weigh kindergarten cut


The Oregon Board of Education last week postponed action on a proposal that, if adopted, would give the district the option of going to half-day kindergarten classes next year.

The matter will be addressed again tonight at the board's work session scheduled for 6 in the administration building, 5721 Seaman Rd.

Superintendent Michael Zalar wants approval of a request to apply to the Ohio Department of Education for a waiver that would allow the district to cut costs in the 2010-2011 school year by eliminating its all-day, every-day kindergarten if the necessity arose because of reduced state funding.

Mr. Zalar emphasized that all-day, every-day kindergarten was budgeted for next year and he had no desire to see it reduced. Applying for the waiver did not commit the district to any action, he said, but would give officials the flexibility to cut kindergarten if financial necessary so dictated.

"This is just a precautionary step to give the board options to consider," the superintendent explained. "It just makes that contingency available for possible use in the future."

Mr. Zalar said this after school board member Diana Gadus balked at the idea of cutting back kindergarten: "I have very big reservations about this … all-day kindergarten every day is very much needed to establish the foundation to build on."

Mrs. Gadus was supported by board President Diane Karoly, who noted that the waiver would only allow kindergarten to be cut for one year.

The cutback, if implemented, would "make such an uproar," Mrs. Karoly said, and by just applying for the waiver, the board would be "making a statement."

"I agree it's making a statement," Mrs. Gadus said. "Even considering it is not a viable solution."

Mr. Zalar said he recommended the board "have as many options available as possible."

He was supported by board members Eric Heintschel and Richard Gabel.

Mr. Heintschel noted that he was a strong advocate of all-day, every-day kindergarten when it was adopted seven years ago but that circumstances have changed.

"I think we need to have every option available," he explained. "When I look at our five-year forecast, we are still limping financially. I agree with Dr. Zalar. We need to have options, at least in the short term, if this community isn't willing to support further levies."

Mr. Gabel concurred: "We have to have the options to do what we have to do to run the school system."

The district is operating in the black, but deficits loom in coming years, according to budget projections. State funding also is uncertain. In August, voters rejected a 5.95-mill emergency levy that would have raised $3.6 million a year for 10 years for operations.

In other action, the board unanimously adopted the proposed strategic plan produced by its consultant Rex Jameson, of Bayside Business Development LLC.

The plan, which has been in the works since April of last year, calls for, among other things, greater community involvement in the district and improving student achievement.

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