Full day kindergarten for District 51?

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MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KKCO) -- More hours in the classroom have been proven to make students more successful, but a new District 51 plan to expand kindergarten options has the potential to cost about $10 million.

On Thursday, the Mesa County Board of Education weighed the pros and cons of implementing a full-day kindergarten program in every school.

“In preschool there is quite a difference from one child to the next, some of them seem prepared for kindergarten and some really aren't,” said Harlin Wall, a Grand Junction parent.

A recent research study showed the importance of full-day kindergarten programs . Forty percent of students that weren't in an all-day kindergarten program were left behind their peers, resulting in a learning gap.

“I think the real benefit is the difference it makes in education,” said Eric Nilsen, the D-51 director of maintenance and operations. “I think they are looking at the data that shows that kids who spend a full day in kindergarten have a head start going into first grade.”

Eric Nilsen gives his analysis on the benefits of full-day kindergarten as a grandparent, but usually he is a numbers guy.

“My part is to try and come up with some capital costs for the additional class rooms,” said Nilsen.

Currently, a typical kindergarten classroom holds about 20 students. If the District decides to go to an all-day kindergarten, officials said they'll have to add nine new classrooms.

Nilsen said one of the options would be to add modular buildings to the schools.

Adding modular classroom buildings at six different elementary schools would cost the District $2.5 million. If the District decided to build additions to existing buildings, the cost is estimated at about $10 million.

“The Board of Education is trying to put all the pieces together so that they can weigh this in a responsible fashion” said Nilsen.

“That money has got to come from somewhere and it's probably going to come from tax payer’s wallets, like we aren't already stretching it thin enough,” said Harlin Wall. “But education is the future, and so we got to look after our future.”

District officials said this plan is still in the research phase and nothing is set in stone.

They said that do not know how they will get all the necessary funding. That will determine the timeline and when and if they decide to move forward.

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