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Future of preschool discussed at school board meeting

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A budget hearing was held to start the regular school board meeting on Monday, July 16.
A number of topics were covered during the meeting, with one being the future of the Gettysburg Preschool.
Representatives from the preschool attended the meeting to discuss options for holding classes in the public school. A number of questions were raised during this initial discussion.
One of the questions raised was if the preschool staff would be considered school employees and eligible for school benefits such as insurance and South Dakota retirement. It was believed that would be the case, which would increase school costs.
Classroom space was also an initial consideration. With the increased enrollment in the Kindergarten class requiring two rooms, it was originally thought that there may not be space available. After further discussion, it was thought that space could be found, although it might not be the ideal situation.
Board member Paul Kellogg was concerned about the increased costs associated with adding a teacher to the staff. “The costs are going to skyrocket for us,” he said.
A teacher certification is not required for preschool teachers in South Dakota. Pre-school students currently pay a tuition, with scholarships available.
Part of the motivation for starting the discussion stemmed from the need for increased staff at the preschool level. Currently, one adult is there with all the children and when discipline issues arise it would be beneficial to have other staff or a principal’s office to help. There is more teacher support needed, and there are concerns about whether the building will be available in the future.
The pre-school is currently held in the United Methodist Church education building.
It was agreed that losing the preschool would be a loss, as the students do benefit by having it before entering Kindergarten. The pre-school teacher, Mrs. Tricia Dutehoeffer, meets with the school Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Crissy Bieber, each year to see what curriculum needs to be added to the program in order to prepare the children for elementary school.
Last year there was significant fundraising done to assist the pre school, and it was asked what impact it would have on the elementary school if there were no pre-school available. It was also commented about the advantages to the development of the pre-school children who may have special needs to be in an environment where a special ed teacher could be nearby to observe or make recommendations.
Discussion returned to options for classrooms and how current classes are being relocated to accommodate the increased number of students in the elementary and high school this year.
Superintendent Tim Hagedorn said that while the situation would be beneficial, this may not be the time to take it on. “I think it is something we need to revisit and go ahead with if we can make it work in the future. There are going to be some added expenses, but your are probably going to save some unseen expenses, too.”
More questions need to be researched and answered in order to follow up on the discussion. The administrators will work out some figures to bring back to the board.
Speaking on behalf of the preschool, Karen Brown thanked the board and said, “Our hope was to begin the discussion and get it on everyone’s mind.”
In other board activity, the new board members, Tom Fairbanks and Kimberly Schweiss, were given the oath of office, and outgoing board member Rose Schatz was thanked for her service.
The complete minutes from the school board meeting are published on page 13 of the News.
–Molly McRoberts

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