All Day K worries mom of two

As a mother of two young children that will eventually attend Elk River schools, I am concerned about the leadership, direction and focus of our schools. For my children’s sake, I plan to do something about it and hopefully this letter will motivate other parents to do the same.

I have three major concerns:

•The voters voted ‘No.’

•Kindergartners will have all-day, everyday kindergarten but no longer have physical education, art and music.

•Kindergartners will be riding the school bus with middle school children.

No. 1. In November, voters had the opportunity to vote on All Day, Every Day Kindergarten and the voters said ‘No.’ Personally, I support All Day, Every Day Kindergarten, technology spending and anything that invests in our children, but that is beside the point.  The point is that this issue was voted on and the vote did not support All Day K. Why, then, can the School Board deem our vote as insignificant and override the recommendation from administration? In the Star News article on Dec. 22 titled, “Divided board goes for new All Day K,” Holly Thompson was quoted, “If the voters said no to all-day, everyday kindergarten, they also said no to technology and curriculum.” Did we? In a statement on the Elk River Area School District website, Superintendent Dr. Mark Bezek made a statement following the election, “With the passage of our renewal, we will continue to receive $5.75 million a year for the next decade. We will continue to maintain existing curriculum, programs, services, class sizes and staffing.” I find that hard to believe now that we have to find a way to pay for the All Day K. Also, the board plans to cut art, music and physical education for kindergarten — we are, in fact, losing valuable programs.  He also said, “To those of you who chose not to vote for our second question, we will work harder to earn your support and trust. What I ask of you in return is to become involved and help us build a school district that every member of our community will be proud.” I must say, I am having a difficult time supporting and trusting the Elk River School Board but I certainly plan to become more involved.

No. 2. Apparently it has also been decided that kindergartners will no longer have physical education, art and music. These are integral parts of educating the whole child. Imagine a class full of 5-year-olds that get a 20-minute recess and no other creative or physical outlet throughout the day. Has the School Board considered the best interest of the children and teachers in this decision? Not only will there be an increase in behavioral issues in the classrooms, but the childhood obesity issue will continue. Darrell Scott, the father of two Columbine school shooting victims, spoke to Congress in 1999 about the fundamentals of our educational systems. To summarize, he mentioned that people are three part beings: body, soul and spirit. We’ve taken God out of the schools and fail to recognize the spiritual element of our being; opening the doors to hatred and violence. I’m not advocating for religion in schools but can we risk taking the body and soul out of the equation as well? In today’s world, it is scary enough to send your child to school. It’s time to change the focus from budget cuts and test scores to nurturing and inspiring our children and all of their talents and gifts.

No. 3. I don’t think I even need to elaborate on how concerning this point is. The activities on school buses are notorious for being disgusting. I cannot imagine subjecting my 5-year-old to a daily bus ride full of middle school teenagers.

While I support all-day kindergarten, this sudden and unsupported decision by the School Board is out of line. Not only did this decision immediately cut physical education, music and art for kindergarten, but the district will face more critical cuts in the future to support a budget for all-day K. I believe the next school board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. at the city of Elk River council chambers, 13065 Orono Parkway. Please consider attending the meeting and getting involved to make our schools a better place for our children to learn and grow. — Amanda Bakken, Zimmerman