School board approves $400 per year increase in pre-K tuition at 4 Shawnee Mission buildings

Pre-K costs will be going up for families that pay tuition for kids to attend the programs at Highlands, Briarwood, Trailwood and Rhein-Benninghoven.

Out-of-pocket costs for parents enrolling students in pre-kindergarten programs at some Shawnee Mission buildings will be going up over the next couple of years.

A number of students who enroll in pre-K programs through the district have costs covered through special mechanisms like Title 1 funds, early childhood at-risk funding or the Kansas Preschool Pilot program. But four of the district’s 19 pre-K sites allow families that don’t qualify for financial assistance to enroll kids in the pre-K programs and pay tuition. Those buildings are Rhein Benninghoven, Trailwood, Briarwood, and Highlands.

On Monday, the board of education approved a recommendation to increase pre-K tuition $400 from the current annual rate of $2,550 to $2,950 for the 2019-2020 school year.

Leigh Anne Neal, the district’s assistant superintendent for early childhood education and strategic engagement, told the board that the increase was the first step to close a $50,412 gap between staffing costs and funding at those four buildings. She indicated that she will propose another $400 per year increase for the 2020-2021 school year to $3,350. Neal said the district hoped that spreading out the increases over two years would help make the higher costs more manageable for families.

Neal indicated in a memo to administrators that the full $800 increase would give the department “a slight amount of flexibility as we consider opening an additional classroom at Brookwood, as staffing costs vary depending on qualifications and tenure of staff members serving in these roles.”