Empire brings in portable classrooms for kindergarten | NevadaAppeal.com

Empire brings in portable classrooms for kindergarten

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Joanne Green's kindergarten class at Empire Elementary School learns the months and days of the week during an afternoon session Wednesday. Empire's kindergarten class of 2006-07 will be the first to attend all-day classes as required by a federal education act.
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Two new portable classrooms are being built for the Carson City School District to use at Empire Elementary School for all-day kindergarten when it starts in the fall.

“According to the mandate, we need to have the portables installed prior to June 30, the end of our fiscal year,” said Mike Mitchell, director of operations for the school district.

Empire Elementary School will be the sole school to have all-day kindergarten in the fall, and received $22 million from the Legislature to help pay for it.

“From our perspective, this is an opportunity to see what the real value of all-day kindergarten is,” said Dr. Mary Pierczynski, superintendent for the Carson City School District. “The studies we’ve seen show it’s very effective.”

To qualify for state funding for all-day kindergarten, schools needed to show at least 55 percent of their student body qualified to receive free or reduced-price lunch, an indication that students come from low-income families. Empire’s portion of free-and reduced-lunch students is 71.89 percent, according to the most recent Dec. 1, 2005 figures.

As a result, the school district received $330,000 from the state for the two portable classrooms, which cost $165,000 a piece. The modular buildings, which contain two classrooms each, will bring four additional classrooms to Empire. The district needed just three more to convert its current six half-day classes to full day, but with Empire Elementary School bursting beyond its building capacity anyway – 577 students in the school and portables at a school site meant to house 360 students – the extra classroom will be put to use.

“We do have plans for the room,” said Principal Pat Carpenter. “We are way over capacity for what we have. That’s one of the reasons we have (so many portables on the site), so we will be using that classroom just to continue with the programs we are currently implementing.”

By the time school starts, Empire will have hired three new kindergarten teachers for those three new kindergarten classrooms. Those positions will be offered in-house before being made available to outside applicants. Funding for the teacher positions is state supplied and forthcoming.

“We will not actually receive the grant award until July 1,” said Ron Beck, grants coordinator for the district. “I know we’re going to get enough for three teachers, but I don’t know when.”

When all-day kindergarten starts in the fall, Empire classroom teachers will instruct about 18 students apiece. Kindergarten enrollment at Empire is now 102 students, which averages 17 per classroom.

“It’s not going to be that we’ll be having more kids (in the fall), but that we’re going to have more time per kid,” Carpenter said.

There was one other school in the district hoping for all-day kindergarten funding and that was Fritsch Elementary School. Because its student body is below the mark for all-day funding – at 32.23 percent free and reduced lunch – it sought funding through the Nevada Commission on Excellence. The governor appointed the commission to allot more than $91 million set aside by the 2005 Legislature for funding for innovative math and reading programs sought by districts.

Fritsch did not receive funding though it sought $396,376. The school plans to reapply seeking funding from the $5 million the state has left for a small second round of grants for those schools which either didn’t apply or received no award this time.

The school district did receive more than $2 million of the $3.3 million it requested.

According to Pierczynski, several district schools will use some of that grant money to hire a math coach – a teacher who can help other teachers better instruct students and also work directly with struggling math students. She said Bordewich-Bray Elementary School made adequate yearly progress in math after a math coach was hired there.

“All of the subgroups (as described by No Child Left behind) made AYP at Bordewich-Bray,” Pierczynski said. “We were very proud of them. We felt it was very good to have a math coach in there to help the teachers.”

— Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.