Neighborhood school options may be limited in District 196

Rising enrollment may force some kindergartners to be bused to other district schools

Students enrolled in District 196’s all-day kindergarten program next fall may have to attend district schools outside their attendance area due to rising enrollment. (File photo)

Students enrolled in District 196’s all-day kindergarten program next fall may have to attend district schools outside their attendance area due to rising enrollment. (File photo)

Some District 196 kindergartners may not be able to attend their neighborhood school next fall if all-day kindergarten enrollment rises due to new state funding, officials say.

Presently, parents pay $3,400 per year for the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District’s all-day program, while some scholarships are available to families who qualify for free-and-reduced lunches.

Beginning this fall, families will be able to access the program for free thanks to $15.7 million in new state funding provided in the education bill that passed in May.

“This will allow more middle income families to participate, which is a good thing, said Khia Brown, director of District 196’s community education. “But it will also increase enrollment, which creates a challenge for us.”

To date, about 80 percent of the district’s 1,200 kindergartners are enrolled in the all-day program. District officials predict enrollment in the all-day program may rise to about 90 percent once the program becomes free, which could put pressure on district elementary schools that are already near capacity.

As a result, some student may be bused to district schools outside their attendance area. Those students will have the option to attend their neighborhood school in first grade, Brown said. Six elementary schools — Cedar Park, Parkview, Greenleaf, Shannon Park, Diamond Path and Red Pine — are near capacity and will likely face this challenge, she said.

In addition to offering the program for free, the district plans to do away with its waiting list by accepting all interested families.

Currently the program has a waiting list of about 37 students – 4 percent of the 986 children enrolled in the program. Most of these students either wish to open-enroll from another district or enrolled after the deadline.

Officials hope to gain early enrollment estimates by surveying parents of potential District 196 kindergartners. Though early projections provide a good estimate, there’s typically an upswing in all-day kindergarten enrollment near the beginning of the school year, Brown said.

The district will continue to offer its half-day program, based on interest.

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