VBCPS board’s informal “straw” poll backs full-day kindergarten

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At a workshop meeting Tuesday, the Virginia Beach school board reached an informal consensus around asking city council to support full-day kindergarten.

By a show of hands, all but two of the present board members joined am informal “straw” vote of support for moving forward with a budget resolution asking for more than $6 million so Virginia Beach City Public Schools can begin implementing universal full-day kindergarten and expanded pre-kindergarten. Board member Kimberly Melnyk was ill and did not attend the meeting.

“I really want our school system to flourish,” said board member Sharon Felton before the show of hands.

Carolyn Rye, who represents Lynnhaven, also stated the case in straightforward terms. VBCPS has a big disconnect with an array of high-school options but no all-day kindergarten, she said.

“I see it as an equity issue,” she added.

Superintendent Aaron Spence, who attended the workshop and fielded questions from the board, said he could not speak on behalf of Virginia Beach City Council. It was fair to say that full-day kindergarten was in their strategic plan, council would support full-day kindergarten at the leadership level and this is the time to do it, he added.

In response to a question about whether schools would have to use portable classrooms, he said no, assuming no major enrollment shifts.

“As of today, we have enough space for full-day kindergarten in every school,” he said.

Still, the board fell short of unanimous support for all-day kindergarten, with opponents registering concerns about paying for it.

At-large member Victoria Manning, who was elected in November, said she opposed full-day kindergarten because she couldn’t support asking citizens to pay more in taxes.

Similarly, board member Carolyn Weems said she was not opposed to full-day kindergarten if the data supported it as a positive and if VBCPS could afford it.

“I think there are too many questions,” she said. “Most importantly, we don’t have the money.”

A formal vote will follow at the board’s March 7 meeting.