Virginia Beach School Board votes to expand full-day kindergarten

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - School board members voted to expand full-day kindergarten in the city on Tuesday night.

In a 6-5 vote, the school board decided the program would start phasing in at the beginning of next school year.

The division previously offered half-day to most students.

The school board asked the city council for $14 million to begin the process. 

A portion of the requested funds would also be used for the required local match to expand pre-kindergarten programs under the Virginia Pre-School Initiative.

"I like the idea. I think it would help a lot of families," said Andrea Simmons, the parent of a kindergarten student. "I don't think it's a waste of money. It's an investment in our future."

Students from lower income neighborhoods, or those who need extra help, previously could be eligible for full-day kindergarten, but that doesn't include everyone.

Parents often times have to find daycare or other arrangements for their kids. "I would look forward to it," said Simmons. "I know a lot of my friends, who have younger kids getting ready to go into kindergarten, they're like, 'Oh, I hope they pass that.'"

Two school board members signaled they wouldn't support it before the vote, saying the money isn't there. "I'm very reluctant to ask our citizens - to ask them to pay more taxes," said Carolyn Weems, a board member.

In addition to the kindergarten change, the initiatives included in a new budget plan are a 2 percent raise for all staff, flat health care costs for employees, and the allocation of 40 positions to help strategically reduce class sizes at the secondary level.