This letter is in response to Tracy Ruegg's assertions regarding the all-day everyday kindergarten program to be offered at Heritage Elementary School during the 2011-12 school year.

To the editor:

This letter is in response to Tracy Ruegg's assertions regarding the all-day everyday kindergarten program to be offered at Heritage Elementary School during the 2011-12 school year.

The previous state budget implemented an unfunded mandate that all districts offer all-day everyday kindergarten. In Olentangy, this would have required an additional 37 classrooms and many new staff members. We felt that financial burden was unfair to taxpayers in a district already trying to keep up with an enrollment growth of around 1,000 students each year.

So the district worked with the Ohio Department of Education to obtain a waiver, and ODE agreed to let us phase in all-day everyday kindergarten beginning with a limited program for about 300 students during the 2011-12 school year.

State lawmakers repealed the mandate for all-day everyday kindergarten this spring, more than two months after Olentangy began kindergarten registration for the 2011-12 school year. At that point, we felt it was important to honor our commitment to offer the program for at least this upcoming school year.

The 2011-12 program will cost the district about $480,000. At this point, no decision has been made regarding the program's future. We feel that all-day everyday kindergarten can be an extremely valuable experience for many students, but we also know the benefits of the program must be weighed against the realities of decreased state funding and declining property tax revenues.

Now that the state budget has been finalized, we'll have the data we need to determine what is in the best interest of our district as a whole.

The same law that repealed the mandate for all-day everyday kindergarten also included a provision that would allow Olentangy to charge tuition for this program in the future. We are seriously considering this option, but since we are already expecting to have more than 9,000 preschool and elementary students in our 15 elementary schools next year, keeping up with the demands for classroom space may make that option impractical.

If anyone has additional questions, please give us a call at (740) 657-4050. You're also welcome to send an email to superintendent_blog@olentangy.k12.oh.us.

Wade Lucas
Olentangy Local Schools superintendent