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While All-Day Kindergarten Hangs in the Balance, Solon Schools Seek Waiver

Superintendent describes waiver from mandated all-day, every-day kindergarten as insurance in case the law doesn't change

With changes in state law expected soon, the mandate to provide tuition-free all-day kindergarten this fall appears to be on the way out.

But the Solon Board of Education is taking no chances. On Monday, the board approved a request to seek a waiver to delay the beginning of all-day, every-day kindergarten in case the law doesn't change.

Right now, a bill is moving through the state legislature that seeks to eliminate the requirement for all-day kindergarten. 

"That will probably pass," Superintendent Joe Regano said of the bill. He added that the waiver request is "an insurance against having a forced decision in regard to all-day kindergarten."

Solon already offers a full day to kindergarteners, but parents are required to pay tuition for the extra half-a-day of class. If the law doesn't change, then all school districts must provide all-day kindergarten without tuition starting this fall. 

School officials estimate it would cost taxpayers about $600,000 per year because of the loss of tuition revenue and the added cost, including hiring more teachers.

The all-day kindergarten mandate, approved under former Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, is expected to be a casualty of the change in power in Columbus.

Republicans have called the kindergarten requirement an unfunded mandate that schools are unprepared to handle because it would require more classroom space and teachers.

Since the kindergarten mandate was approved a few years ago, many of Ohio's school districts have requested waivers, which are allowed when a district can show that the mandate would provide a hardship.

School Board President Julie Glavin said that parents are waiting patiently for a resolution and she hopes the state legislature can get the matter resolved soon. 

Schools spokeswoman Tamara Strom said that Solon is one of the pioneers of offering full-day kindergarten as an option for parents, and that the community supports the current way of handling kindergarten. Parents pay annual tuition of about $2,100 to send their child to all-day kindergarten.

About 75 to 80 percent of Solon parents select full-day kindergarten for their children on a yearly basis, Strom said.

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