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Area schools won't charge for full-day kindergarten

None of the school districts in Jackson and Josephine counties plan to take advantage of a recent change in state law that allows schools to charge tuition for full-day kindergarten.

State legal counsel recently advised that charging tuition for full-day kindergarten was illegal after a Corvallis family complained about it. The practice has been used for more than a decade in some school districts, largely in response to parent demand for a longer kindergarten program.

The Legislature passed a law Feb. 22 legalizing full-day kindergarten tuition through June 2010.

Currently, Oregon pays only for a half-day kindergarten program. Some school officials say they can't afford to pay for full-day classes. Others say they don't have enough classroom space to hold all-day kindergarten.

Some state lawmakers have indicated they will seek funding for full-day kindergarten in the 2009 legislative session.

Some local districts use federal monies meant to serve economically disadvantaged students to provide full-day kindergarten.

Seven Medford elementary schools with large low-income populations offer full-day kindergarten, including Howard, Jackson, Jefferson, Oak Grove, Roosevelt, Washington, and Wilson elementary schools.

The other seven Medford elementary schools offer only half-day kindergarten.

"We are going to wait and see what the state provides in terms of funding full-day kindergarten for all kids," said Medford schools Superintendent Phil Long.

Central Point's Sam's Valley Elementary holds full-day kindergarten. Jewett, Patrick and Central Point elementary schools offer three-quarter-day kindergarten, while Mae Richardson Elementary has half-day classes.

Ashland and Phoenix-Talent schools also hold three-quarter-day kindergarten classes.

"We are able to support our program; it's sustainable at 80 percent," said Michelle Zundel, Ashland schools education director. "We would have a problem with the equity issues that would come up with charging tuition."

Butte Falls, Eagle Point, Grants Pass and Rogue River school districts all have half-day programs. Three Rivers School District's programs differ from school to school.

All of the kindergarten classes are free.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.