by Jim Boyle
Patrick and Kristy Murray of Elk River wanted an all-day everyday kindergarten classroom experience, so when it came time to enroll their oldest son, Dylan, in school, they took a chance on the Kaleidoscope Charter School lottery.
They didn’t win their son a spot, so they bit the bullet took on the $300 a month bill that it took to have the all-day, everyday experience at Meadowvale Elementary School — their neighborhood school in the Elk River Area School District.
“I had a tough time believing the kids who go to school half as much gain as much knowledge,” Kristy said.
It would be even tougher to convince her now that both her kids have had experienced it — her oldest at Meadowvale and her youngest at Kaleidoscope.
The Murrays took a second shot at the lottery at Kaleidoscope when their daughter, Sienna, was about to enter kindergarten. They won a spot and Dylan was placed on the waiting list for siblings.
Three weeks before the start of school, they got the call he had a spot in the school’s first grade program.
“If Elk River would have offered all-day everyday kindergarten (for free) we would have been hard-pressed to move them to a school 20 minutes away,” Kristy said. “But it was a no-brainer for us.”
The first years of their school career were too important to pass up this opportunity, she explained.
“If you lose them young, you have lost them forever,” Kristy said.
Being in the school district meant they had access to transportation, and the 20-hour commitment for volunteer hours was no problem. She would have put that much time into either school.
The Murrays now expect their children will stay at Kaleidoscope through eighth grade.
“I’m sure they will have lots of options at that point, and once they get to be that age they will be able to put their own input in.”
The Murrays, both graduates of Elk River High School, moved back to Elk River to be closer to grandparents. They liked that Meadowvale Elementary School was within walking distance from their home in the Nordic Hills housing development.
It was a hard decision to switch schools. The Murrays loved Dylan’s kindergarten teacher, Amy Crocker. He had a great first year of school. The distance could have been a stumbling block.
“But there were so many other pros, we couldn’t get around it,” she said.
Dylan had 25 kids in his class at Meadowvale; Sienna has 16 in her class at Kaleidoscope. Dylan has 24 kids in his first grade at Kaleidoscope.
The scale of the school feels smaller, too, even though it has children in kindergarten through eighth grade.
There are extras after school if kids struggle in a certain topic, Kristy said.
The children learn Spanish during the day, too. And they go on lots of field trips. The Murrays have also been impressed with the communication from the school.
All this said, the Murrays maintain there’s nothing wrong with Elk River schools. But all things considered, the Murrays say they believe Kaleidoscope gives their children a better chance.
They even know others who will take a chance on the Kaleidoscope lottery. One family did, and is holding their child with a summer birthday back a year to try the lottery one more time.