Photo by Chad Koenen
The Henning School Board approved a plan to expand the amount of days the 3-year-old and 4-year-old preschoolers will attend school next year. The expanded offering will be on a one-year trial, provided demand and enrollment warrants the expansion.

By Chad Koenen


Henning preschoolers could soon be getting some additional time in the classroom in the fall—that is, if demand warrants an expansion to the program.

During its regularly scheduled meeting last Monday night, the Henning School Board approved adding an additional day per week for the 3-year-old preschool program and increasing the 4-year-old program to four days a week. The expansion is pending registration numbers for the program and teacher availability on a one year trial basis. 

In order to make the program a reality, the school district will need to have one teacher and one support staff for every 20 students enrolled in a preschool program. If the school district needs to hire an additional teacher and support staff the added cost would be $102,000.

School board member Matt Reinbold asked Henning School Superintendent Melissa Sparks if the school district could afford the additional program. He said offering the program to families who are interested made sense for the school district, but questioned the cost when the school district was already facing a budget deficit. 

Sparks said about $60,000 of the $102,000 additional cost would be offset by grants the school district will receive next year. She said the costs were figured on the high end and may not come out to be as high as projected. Much of the additional cost was due to the addition of a preschool teacher if the numbers warranted adding more staff. 

“It could be that we don’t need an additional teacher.”

Melissa Sparks, Henning School Superintendent

The hope, Sparks said, would be to expand the preschool program, which could then act as a feeder program for students to attend kindergarten when they are of age. 

This year the 3-year-old program went from just one day per week to two days per week during the second semester. Sparks said the change was well-received by the preschool parents and the district would like to continue to offer preschool for 3-year-olds for two days a week beginning in the fall.

Sparks said the district would accommodate parents who would prefer to have their 3-year-old child attend just one day per week. 

The plan next year would also include expanding the 4-year-old preschool program from 2 1/2 days per week to four days per week. 

In addition to more time to learn in the classroom for educational purposes, Henning Principal Thomas Williams said there is a focus on the importance of play, as well as social and emotional growth in the 4-year-old program. 

School board member Deb Hart said the school district needs to make sure parents understand the expanded preschool offering next year is part of a pilot program and may not be continued in future years.

The school board approved offering the expanded preschool program next year as part of a pilot program, depending upon the availability of teachers and preschool registration numbers.

In other news

• Heard from two members of the Henning trap team who invited the school board to attend a trap night at the Henning Rifle Range. 

• Accepted a donation of $1,200 from the Ottertail Lions Club for the national BPA contest. 

• Approved the hiring of Jason Speer as an assistant golf coach.

• Heard the activities report, which stated that Otter Tail Central spring sports participation is up overall with 213 participants in softball, baseball, track and golf. There are 50 Henning students who are participating in spring sports with the most Henning participants being in softball with 17 and baseball with 13. 

• Heard that 26 students registered for kindergarten at Henning School for the fall. 

• Approved setting a school board work session on May 16 at 5:30 p.m. to continue discussions with ICS about school building projects. The regularly scheduled school board meeting will take place immediately following the work session.