By Sheridan Block
With cuts in funding and other changes affecting schools, on Apr. 25 Ouray’s school board discussed the possibility of raising the school’s preschool tuition.
Looking at costs for Norwood and Ridgway’s Pre-K programs, the board found Ouray charges much less. The monthly tuition for Ouray’s preschool, for a half day, is $100 per month, with snacks included. Norwood offers Pre-K at half days for $192 per month plus a 40 cent snack fee while Ridgway charges $360 per month for a full day.
Snacks from Ouray’s cafeteria include a variety of healthier, nutritious foods for the children, which adds up in the budget. One option suggested by preschool teacher Tammy Fedel was the addition of a snack fee to help offset the costs or to change the way the program handles snacks. She added their “hands are tied a little bit” as far as what they can offer the children, as the state previously asked schools to stop allowing parents to bring in snacks.
The other option was an overall increase in the school’s tuition. While Fedel mentioned that raising costs might be the preferred choice, she added that an increase in tuition might negatively affect enrollment, something she felt would be detrimental to the children in the long run.
“My main concern is the fact that we’re trying to build a foundation for the children entering into kindergarten and first grade,” said Fedel. “If those foundation blocks aren’t put in place, you may end up with children who do not know how to handle themselves in school or social situations and you may have a more negative outcome.”
The school serves 26 kids in the program daily, with some doubling up. The Colorado Preschool Program provides funding for eligible children whose families may not be able to afford preschool and allows for a certain number of slots to be filled in schools. Ouray has only seven CPP slots available this year and will have eight next year. The school also subsidizes $17,000 for its Pre-K program.
“There’s also a value of our program and how much a parent is willing to pay. It’s pennies compared to what Pre-K really is throughout the nation,” said board member Kentee Pasek.
Fedel agreed and added that a tuition increase would be safe as long as it was comparable to neighboring schools’ programs. School board president Mike Fedel said it was “a delicate balance.”
Pasek proposed a scholarship program that would be beneficial for at-risk children whose families may not be able to afford a tuition increase. There may be some individuals or organizations that would want to contribute to a scholarship to help children attend preschool, she said. Money for the scholarship would not be taken out of the tuition funds.
Neither the tuition increase nor the scholarship is finalized for next year. Superintendent Scott Pankow wants to present the idea to the CPP committee.
In other matters last Thursday, the board:
- Reviewed revisions of the new diploma system, as presented by Dee James, high school vocational instructor. The new diploma system offers high school students three tracks to follow in order to obtain a standard, academic or technical diploma. While the state is still finalizing requirements for the 2014 sixth grade class, Ouray could begin offering the diplomas to next year’s seniors. Phasing in the diplomas would allow students to take advantage of the different tracks if they want to. “As usual, we’re ahead of the state,” said Mike Fedel. The board also decided to rename the diplomas to academic, academic honors and technical, as the standard diploma is an academic diploma and is not subpar to the others.
- Received estimates on window film for the lower levels of the school as part of school safety. The purpose in tinting the windows is to prevent outsiders from looking into classrooms. Costs for the film could reach up to $8,000. The board requested a test of the film's durability on select windows before making a major investment.
- Heard Pankow’s report from the Senate hearing of SB 13-213 last month. The bill is sitting in the House and if passed will move to voters in November. “To me, it’s not going to pass the public,” said board member Don Mort.
- Scheduled a work session in June to discuss budget and superintendent goals and reviews.
- Celebrated the school’s Knowledge Bowl victory at state competitions as well as the FBLA chapter’s placements in state competitions and qualification for nationals this summer.
- Enjoyed souvenir chocolate from the French Club’s trip to Paris earlier this month.