South-Western City Schools officials want to proceed quickly to obtain a two-year waiver to delay state-mandated all-day, everyday kindergarten until the 2013-14 school year.

South-Western City Schools officials want to proceed quickly to obtain a two-year waiver to delay state-mandated all-day, everyday kindergarten until the 2013-14 school year.

The Ohio Department of Education granted South-Western a one-year waiver this school year. The extra two years would give the district more time to prepare an expanded kindergarten program that initially would cost an extra $3.3-million a year in staff and facilities.

The district now offers all-day kindergarten every other school day to about 1,415 students. The school board could act on a waiver resolution at its Feb. 14 meeting.

During the Jan. 24 board meeting, Patrick Callaghan, the district's executive director for elementary education, told the board that district officials don't oppose all-day, everyday kindergarten.

Instead, the district cannot pay for it without cutting into other programs. Also, district officials anticipate a possible $9-million cut in state aid because of Ohio's huge budget deficit.

Legislation is pending in the Ohio Legislature to eliminate the all-day, everyday requirement. Callaghan said the district wants to be prepared, regardless. June 1 is the deadline to seek waivers.

"We do have the problem of needing additional space," he said. "The district would need to hire 29 additional teachers and 29 classroom aides."

Voters approved an operating levy last fall that will generate about $18.5-million a year. Officials have said that's only enough for the district to maintain current operations.

"Basically, what we're asking for at the February meeting would be for you to act on the waiver (request)," superintendent Bill Wise told the board. "This allows us the most flexibility."

Dozens of teachers, many wearing blue South-Western Education Association T-shirts, jammed into the board meeting room for the Jan. 24 meeting. Both SWEA and the Ohio Association of Public School Employees union, which represents classified workers, have been without contracts since June 30.

Both are in federal mediation with the district.

Wise said before the meeting that a mediator has scheduled bargaining talks for Feb. 7 with OAPSE. No talks have been scheduled for SWEA, which last met for a negotiation session on Dec. 20.

"At this point, it's really up to the mediator to bring us back together," Wise said before the meeting. "We're going to continue to talk through the issues in order to reach a resolution" with both unions.

While seven months is the longest anyone can remember either union going without reaching a contract, Wise noted that lengthy contract talks are not unusual in Ohio.

He said teachers in the Sprinbgboro school district near Dayton have been without a contract for 2 1/2 years and those talks also are being handled by a federal mediator.

No public participation session was held at the Jan. 24 meeting, so no union members spoke. Both OAPSE and SWEA leaders have previously said they want a fair contract for their members.

OAPSE and SWEA voluntarily gave up base pay raises for 2009-10, but received step pay increases.

The school last year approved a five-year financial forecast that includes no base staff salary increases for fiscal year 2011.

SWEA members have been appearing in their T-shirts at board meetings since October.