District 64 to charge tuition for all-day kindergarten classes
After a roughly two-hour discussion, a divided Park Ridge-Niles District 64 school board on Thursday voted to charge tuition for students who will take new, all-day kindergarten classes this fall.
The $18-per-day fee amounts to $3,240 tuition for a full school year. It's less than the $24-per-day figure -- totaling $4,320 per year -- suggested by administrators. A $21 daily fee proposal was rejected, too.
Students in half-day kindergarten classes aren't charged tuition, and that will continue.
To accommodate full-day kindergarten at all five elementary schools, the district is borrowing about $26 million to partially fund building expansions and renovations.
Some suburban districts charge tuition for all-day kindergarten; others don't. District 64 administrators initially discouraged tuition to ensure all students have the opportunity to attend full-day classes without the weight of an additional cost.
But ahead of Thursday's board meeting at Lincoln Middle School in Park Ridge, administrators reversed course. In a memo to the board, Superintendent Eric Olson cited rising construction cost estimates prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic and a desire to safeguard "the financial future of the district" as reasons for the change.
Officials subsequently said the latest estimated cost of the project is around $38 million, which will require the use of district reserves.
The board approved the tuition rate with a 4-3 vote.
"This is a tough decision," said board President Denise Pearl, who favored the plan. "I know not everyone is going to agree with it."
Although he wanted to offer tuition-free kindergarten, board member Tom Sotos said he cast a "yes" vote because he's concerned about the financial health of the district. He apologized to "anyone we're charging this to" after the vote.
The board voted last month to increase annual student fees for kindergarten. Separate from tuition, these fees are designed to cover textbooks, computers, art supplies and other items.
The fee for full-day kindergarten will be $227 per year starting this fall, the same amount assessed for first- through fifth-graders.
The fee for half-day kindergarten will be half that amount, or $113.50 per student. It has been $84.
Kindergarten registration begins Feb. 22.