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updated: 12/13/2011 11:36 AM

Hawthorn may offer modified full-day kindergarten

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Plans to provide tuition-based full-day kindergarten at all Hawthorn District 73 elementary schools next year is on hold, although a scaled-down version appears likely.

The Vernon Hills-based district may be able to institute a full-day kindergarten at two schools instead of in each of its four elementary schools as was originally discussed as a way to raise revenue.

At issue is securing the space the district needs to to allow for kindergarten and support other program needs, such as the possible expansion of the Dual Language program and accommodating special services.

A deal could not be struck in time on the two most viable properties, district officials said.

"For a couple of different reasons, we won't be able to wrap this up in time to have the property available for use next year," Superintendent Sue Zook said. "All of this hinged on space availability."

However, by making adjustments to schedules, programs and staffing, administrators recently found a way to fit an optional tuition-based full day of kindergarten at Hawthorn Elementary North and Elementary South for the 2012-13 school year.

The school board likely will review the possibilities in advance of a kindergarten information meeting on Jan. 26 where details of those options would be shared with parents.

In a survey last spring, parents were supportive of a tuition-based, full-time kindergarten. District 73 may have to consider a lottery for the new full-day offering because of high demand and a limited number of spots.

Optional full-day tuition-based kindergarten was identified last year by the district's financial advisory task force as one way to help close an estimated $1.5 million to $2 million budget shortfall, but that was closed by other means.

A class with 25 paying students could generate about $65,000, according to the district.

District 73 provides a half-day kindergarten program and continues to look for a property that would allow for the full-day version and eventually, prekindergarten at all elementary schools.

Finding new space also would help alleviate overcrowding and imbalances in demographics. The district plans to address those issues by adjusting boundaries and attendance areas, but those changes aren't expected to be in place until the 2014-15 school year.

In other financial news, the district faces an estimated $775,000 shortfall for 2012-13 and a $1.5 million gap in 2013-14.

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