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Swedeborg reviews rates for preschool attendance, visitor parking lot issues
SWEDEBORG, Mo. (June 9, 2009) — A popular preschool program at Swedeborg has become so popular that school board members wonder if it’s appropriate to charge more parents to participate.

Meeting Monday evening, members of the Swedeborg R-III School Board tabled a proposal to charge for preschool but agreed maintaining the program is important.

Swedeborg offers both half-day and full-day slots. Many parents prefer to send their preschool children for only part of the day, but full-day slots are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Those whose family incomes are low enough to qualify for free school lunches pay nothing to enroll their students; those who qualify for reduced-rate lunches pay $5 per week and those whose incomes are high enough to pay full price for lunch pay $15 per week for preschool. The same rates apply regardless of whether the child attends half-days or full days.

“That’s cheap,” said board member Greg Black.

“So the majority of our kids we don’t collect nothing on?” asked board member Chris Black.

That’s correct, according to District Administrator Joe Dunlap.

“I don’t want to lose a valuable program because I know this provides a service to the community,” Dunlap said.

Chris Black said it appears the district may be turning the corner financially and may be able to find ways to pay for its programs without adding more expenses to parents in a low-income district.

“With this year we are looking at ending possibly $3,000 or $4,000 in the black. That’s a drastic difference from the previous years,” Chris Black said. “If preschool isn’t something that is being charged for by any of the schools around, we’re scraping pretty much the bottom of the barrel if we charge.”

Greg Black said he was surprised that most districts around Swedeborg don’t charge for preschool. Other board members said that while the price is cheap for day care, pre-school is different from day care in that it’s run by a school district and intended to educate children, not be a for-profit business for the day care provider.

In other business:

• Board members received a request to make the school parking lot in front of the building available for visitors only, with staff required to park farther away from the building.

“It could be very unpopular,” cautioned board member Jamie Alexander. “Most places have a spot for visitor parking. It may not be very big, but at least it’s there.”

Greg Black said that if people are unhappy about walking through mud in an unpaved parking lot to get to the school building, they could use older shoes.

• Dunlap proposed holding a school-wide barbecue to celebrate naming the school library after longtime Swedeborg librarian Neva Davis.

“I think it’s long overdue and I’d like to have a barbecue and an open house for everybody to come in,” Dunlap said.

• Dunlap said he’s been reviewing the Swedeborg budget with Joe Ridgeway, the superintendent of the Richland R-IV School District. Ridgeway’s district is where Dunlap previously taught and is where most of the Swedeborg students attend high school after they graduate from eighth grade at Swedeborg.

“The Richland school board and their principal, Joe Ridgeway, has been very, very, very kind to this school district. They helped us when we had some major, major issues last month,” Alexander said. “They obviously feel we are doing something good as well.”

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