Kindergarten Transition to Neighborhood Schools
This informational website aims to provide quick and easy access to information about a potential kindergarten transition. The District plans to have kindergarten students return to neighborhood schools starting in the 2024-2025 school year. We understand families/caregivers/staff may have specific questions regarding the transition. We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions covering various topics to simplify things.
Please see the Frequently Asked Questions below, and if you don't see the answer you are looking for, please feel free to contact us using the Submit a Question form, and we will get back to you with an answer as soon as we can.
Frequently Asked Questions
Background For Changes
- Why is the District realigning buildings?
- What were the reasons for this decision?
- Did the district explore other options?
- Has the District been reviewing facility utilization?
- Can you provide some history about the Woodson building?
- Are kindergarten centers common in Minnesota?
- What is the legal authority for these decisions?
Why is the District realigning buildings?
The realignment fits the District's mission to inspire, empower and accelerate student outcomes.
The change will allow us to provide more access and opportunities for all children and streamline services to better utilize staff for programming while being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers in the Austin Public School District.
Bringing our kindergarten students back to the neighborhood schools eliminates a transition for students and families/caregivers.
The early childhood programming was displaced across the District this fall. Bringing this critical programming back together instead of leaving them displaced across the District has numerous benefits. These include fostering a sense of community, promoting collaboration and resource sharing among the staff, reducing costs, and enhancing parent and community involvement and experiences.
What were the reasons for this decision?
There were several factors in this decision:
- Create greater enrollment balance to the extent possible among the District's four elementary schools across all demographic categories.
- Plan for future enrollment growth by balancing building utilization throughout our system in a cost-effective manner.
- Consistency: By attending the same school for multiple years, K-4 students can build strong relationships with their teachers, peers, and the school community. This consistency can help create a sense of belonging and continuity for young learners, which can be particularly important during transition or change.
- Flexibility: K-4 schools can be more flexible in accommodating student needs and adjusting to changing enrollment numbers. As students move through the grades, adjustments can be made to class sizes, staffing, and resources to ensure that all students receive a high-quality education.
- Collaboration: Having multiple grade levels under one roof, K-4 schools can continue to foster collaboration, alignment, and communication among teachers and students across different age groups. Older students can serve as mentors and role models for younger students, and teachers can work together to develop effective curriculum and teaching strategies for various ages.
- Resources: K-4 schools may leverage shared resources across multiple grade levels, such as support staff, media centers, and specialist teachers (art, music, PE). This can help ensure that all students can access various educational and enrichment opportunities, regardless of their grade level.
- Community Support: By serving a larger population of students, K-4 schools may build stronger relationships with the surrounding community. This can lead to greater community support and involvement in school activities, benefiting students and families alike.
- Since the failed 2019 bond referendum that would have allowed the building of 16 new classrooms, a gymnasium and office space, a kitchen and cafeteria remodel, and a new playground installation, all of which would have been added to Woodson Kindergarten Center, we have engaged in a comprehensive facility study to analyze the capacity of our elementary buildings further.
- Through the comprehensive facility study, the District has identified efficiencies within each building which can be utilized to meet our programming needs without needing to add a new building and maximize taxpayers' investment in Austin Public Schools.
Did the district explore other options?
Has the District been reviewing facility utilization?
Yes. A strategic priority for the Austin Public Schools is excellence in resource management. The School Board has been updated on future enrollment and facility utilization throughout 2022 and 2023. These updates helped the School Board decide to return to neighborhood schools and have all programming on the same calendar. More information regarding that process can be found here.
For the past year, District administration has been studying enrollment and facility utilization, including:
- March 14, 2022 – School Board Regular Meeting
- January 23, 2023 – School Board Work Session
- March 10, 2023 – Facilities Committee
- March 27, 2023 – School Board Work Session
- April 17, 2023 – Facilities Committee
- April 24, 2023 – School Board Work Session
Can you provide some history about the Woodson building?
Woodson was built in 1952 and operated as an elementary school until 1981. The building was closed until 1990, reopening for early childhood programming as the Community Learning Center. In 2005 it became a kindergarten center, and the Community Learning Center began its eighteen-year lease with Queen of Angels.
Are kindergarten centers common in Minnesota?
What is the legal authority for these decisions?
The school board has the authority to "assign to each school and grade a proper number of pupils."
See: Minnesota Statute §123B.02, subd. 2
Attendance at a particular school is a privilege, not a right for a pupil.
See: Minnesota Statute §120A.36
Operations / Logistics
- What will the building structure be for next school year?
- How much money will the realignment save?
- Will the District need to move boundaries to accommodate building configuration changes?
- What will happen to the Woodson Kindergarten Center?
- How will Kindergarteners fit in the elementary schools?
- What will transportation look like for my student?
- How will playground areas be used?
- When will the District hold kindergarten registration for 2024-2025?
- How will staffing levels be determined with this transition?
What will the building structure be for next school year?
How much money will the realignment save?
Will the District need to move boundaries to accommodate building configuration changes?
No. The District is not altering attendance zones. The current attendance zones have been in place for nearly 30 years. The District is adhering to the established neighborhood schools' attendance zones to capitalize on space utilization among schools throughout the system. Our elementary buildings can return kindergarten students to their neighborhood schools.
What will happen to the Woodson Kindergarten Center?
How will Kindergarteners fit in the elementary schools?
Through a comprehensive facility study of all Austin Public School buildings, we have examined the current building structures and capacity of each elementary building. The collaborative work with building leaders supports the move of kindergartners back to these buildings.
With the help of our principals, we are identifying spaces in each elementary school for kindergarten students and analyzing other district-wide programming needs (i.e., Pi Academy and Setting III SPED programming). In collaboration with teachers, each site will provide a nurturing and age-appropriate environment for our kindergarteners. This includes intentional play-based learning in children's academic, physical, social, and emotional development.
What will transportation look like for my student?
Riding the school bus is a new and exciting experience for children entering kindergarten. The District follows Minnesota statute and School Board Policy 707 regarding the transportation of elementary students. Students living greater than one mile from their neighborhood school will receive transportation.
Our transportation service is provided by Palmer Transportation. Palmer has served our community by safely transporting students and will continue to provide this important service for students.
How will playground areas be used?
For children of school age, developmentally appropriate play areas could contain horizontal bars, cooperative equipment such as tire swings, slides, sliding poles, rope or chain climbers on angles, climbing pieces, and open areas for group play. A process will start in the coming months to review the Sumner Elementary School outdoor area for enhancements. The District is also reviewing each of the elementary sites for potential enhancements to ensure recent statutory and code mandates are met.
When will the District hold kindergarten registration for 2024-2025?
How will staffing levels be determined with this transition?
- When will we know school times?
- Why bring the kindergarteners back into the elementary buildings?
- Will kindergarteners have their own "space," and will elementary rooms be changed to feel more like kindergarten rooms?
- What are the kindergarten academic standards?
- How will staff prepare to work with kindergarten students and families?
- Can families attend an event at your child's new school this coming school year?
- Are there resources available to learn more about kindergarten?
When will we know school times?
Why bring the kindergarteners back into the elementary buildings?
Bringing kindergarten students back to elementary buildings has several advantages, including:
- Access to Resources: By locating kindergarten students in elementary buildings, they can access the same resources and facilities as older students. This includes access to specialists in art, music, and physical education, which can enhance the learning experience for kindergarteners.
- Improved Transitions: When kindergarten students move up to first grade, the transition can be smoother if they are already familiar with the building, staff, and routines. By spending their first year of school in the same building as older students, kindergarteners can become more comfortable with the school environment and better prepared for the transition to first grade.
- Socialization: Kindergarteners can interact with a broader range of peers by being in the same building as older students. This can enhance socialization and help build critical social skills, such as sharing, cooperating, and communicating effectively with others.
- Professional Development: When kindergarten teachers are located in the same building as other elementary school teachers, they have more collaboration opportunities for professional development. They can work with their colleagues to develop and align curriculum, share resources, and learn from one another's experiences.
- Cost Savings: By locating kindergarten students in elementary buildings, we will see cost efficiencies related to personnel and system operations. Additionally, shared resources and facilities can be more cost-effective than maintaining separate facilities for kindergarteners. Kindergarten teachers will be better able to collaborate with first-grade teachers in preparing students for the next step in their education. Having kindergarten students in elementary buildings is easier for families with siblings.
Will kindergarteners have their own "space," and will elementary rooms be changed to feel more like kindergarten rooms?
Our elementary schools will be ready to receive kindergarten students, deliver high-quality instruction, hire and continually train knowledgeable staff, and be culturally responsive to all its students. This also includes the teacher designing the classroom environment to engage students, meet sensory needs, and offer practice with academic content.
With the help of our principals, we are identifying spaces in each elementary school for kindergarten students. In collaboration with teachers, each site will provide a nurturing and age-appropriate environment for our kindergarteners.
What are the kindergarten academic standards?
Minnesota's academic standards are reviewed and revised on a 10-year cycle. One content area of academic standards is reviewed and revised each year based on a schedule approved by the Minnesota legislature. Per Minnesota Statutes, section 120B.018, an academic standard is a summary description of student learning in a content area. Academic standards are comprised of one or more benchmarks. A benchmark supplements the standard and is the specific knowledge or skill a student must master to complete part of an academic standard by the end of a grade level or grade band. Learn more here.
How will staff prepare to work with kindergarten students and families?
We know and follow parameters for staff development that advance the staff's ability to work effectively with the Graduation Assessment Requirements and with students as they progress to achievement of those Graduation Assessment Requirements and meet federal law requirements.
Guided by Teaching and Learning Analysis and the Desired Daily Experience, stakeholder feedback helped shape and update the APS Instructional Model to illuminate the values, beliefs, and needs to support the cohesion of teaching and learning across the District.
The four elements at the model's center are identified by stakeholders as wants and needs for our teaching and learning focus.
- Engagement describes the attention, curiosity, interests, optimism, and passion students and staff want from their interactions in the learning environment.
- Environment includes a safe and supportive space where teaching, learning, and movement are important and attended to in all forms and functions.
- Equity includes four dimensions (Access, Achievement, Identity, and Power) as powerful levers for creating caring, just, inclusive, and healthy communities that support all individuals in reaching their fullest potential.
- Evidence provides information for teachers and students to focus their teaching and learning on improving student understanding and tailoring teaching strategies to accelerate student achievement.
Finally, the School Board has several policies in place that address students' educational programming (600 series).
Can families attend an event at your child's new school this coming school year?
Are there resources available to learn more about kindergarten?
Submit a Question