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Tag Archives: episd pre-k

EPISD Partners with YWCA to expand Pre-Kindergarten Program

Little Aaliyah Hatten prepares a colorful plate of pancakes, spaghetti and grapes. The plastic entree is a lesson in dramatic play for the 4-year-old who is among the first pre-kindergarten students to enroll in EPISD’s YWCA classrooms.

EPISD entered into a partnership with five YWCA centers within District boundaries this year to offer more pre-kindergarten opportunities for children like Aaliyah who cannot attend traditional half-day classes.

These students will receive three hours of prekindergarten instruction with an EPISD teacher without ever having to leave their YWCA daycare setting.

“Parents feel more comfortable, more at ease because they know their children are here and don’t have to worry about having to leave work to pick them up,” YWCA instructor Elizabeth Montelongo said.

Some students who are enrolled in the program have been at the daycare center since they were infants. The setting is an already familiar environment for students like Diego Flores, who enjoys playing cars with his friends and coloring the different letters of the alphabet.

The partnership makes it possible for Diego’s younger brothers, triplets enrolled in the 3-year-old program, to take advantage of the active learning environment.

“It benefits the children, and it benefits the parents too,” Montelongo said. ”

Montelongo works in tandem with EPISD teacher Nora Hernandez to plan the students’ lessons and incorporate dual language.

“We work and plan together. The day is divided into half day in English and half day in Spanish,” Hernandez said. “The program is really great. We are bringing pre-k instruction into the daycare.”

Besides the three hours of pre-k instruction, students also participate in other fun activities throughout the day. The class is divided into a number of different learning centers, from math and science to language and writing.

The dramatic play center, which features a play kitchen and costumes, is just one of the many centers geared to engage children with interactive and educational activities.

Student Kaylan Adkison spends her time at the ABC center, matching upper and lower case letters and finding objects that begin with each of those letters. She already recognizes many letters, digging in the bin seeking matching objects with confidence.

“This is the letter B,” Kaylan said. “Balloons start with B. Now I have to find the basketball and the banana.”

To enroll in the program, families must meet federal qualifications. Non-qualifying students may enroll if there are slots available.

“We want the community to know about this program,” Hernandez said. “It’s a great program because it provides the perfect opportunity for these children to receive dual-language instruction in an all-day center.”

El Paso ISD to Host Universal Pre-Kinder Open Houses Starting Saturday

Parents interested in participating in the free universal pre-kindergarten program at specific campuses in the El Paso Independent School District are invited to attend any the five open houses happening this month.

The open houses are designed to showcase the pre-k program offerings like dual-language and STEAM instruction, and answer questions about enrolling students in pre-k even if they don’t otherwise qualify for the program.

All open houses will start at 9 a.m. at the following dates and locations:

• Saturday, Feb. 6

o Barron Elementary, 11155 Whitey Ford St.

o Bond Elementary, 250 Lindbergh Ave.

o Kohlberg Elementary, 1445 Nardo Goodman Dr.

o Schuster Elementary, 5515 Will Ruth Ave.

• Saturday, Feb. 13, at MacArthur Intermediate, 8101 Whitus Dr.

The EPISD Board of Trustees last month approved the expansion of the pre-k programs to eight campuses for students from families who do not meet income and socio-economic pre-requisites.

The other three campuses hosting universal pre-k units are Cielo Vista, Crockett and Fannin Elementary schools. EPISD currently offers free pre-k to students who are English language learners or come from low-income, military or homeless families. Starting next year, 16 half-day pre-k classes at the eight expansion offers will open pre-k slots to any family living in El Paso County.

The District will continue to offer the dual-language program in all pre-k classrooms, and starting next year the curriculum will have an additional STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) focus.

Advocates: Include Variety of Schools in Pre-K Program

Early education advocates on Tuesday urged the Texas Education Agency to ensure that a diverse group of school districts will be able to apply for funding through a new state grant program designed to bolster the quality of pre-kindergarten.

House Bill 4, which was championed by Gov. Greg Abbott and passed by the Legislature this year, established a pre-kindergarten grant program that will divvy up $118 million over two years — up to $1,500 per student — to school districts and charter schools that meet state standards on curriculum, teacher certification and parent engagement.

Early education was the first of five “emergency” items outlined during the legislative session by Abbott. He pushed the pre-kindergarten bill through by large margins despite opposition from the far-right faction of his party, which criticized the legislation for “threatening parental rights.  

At a public hearing Tuesday, the Texas Education Agency sought feedback as it crafts rules for the program. The agency plans to complete a draft of the rules this winter and begin implementing the program next fall, spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said.

A dozen representatives of schools, districts and advocacy groups shared their ideas for the program at the hearing.

Among them was Lacy Carter of the Arlington Independent School District. She asked the agency to consider giving districts flexibility in designing early education offerings, allowing them to tailor their programs to local needs. She also asked the agency to focus on certain characteristics of districts when issuing the grants.

“Give priority to campuses and districts with high concentrations of students who are economically disadvantaged and/or are English language learners,” she said.

Others asked the agency to consider unique cases, such as schools offering Montessori programs in which there is an emphasis on establishing independence.

“As you decide what high-quality pre-K looks like in the state of Texas, please ensure that Montessori schools are included,” said Sara Cotner, founder of Montessori for All in Austin. “Please take into consideration that Montessori classrooms intentionally have larger teacher-to-student ratios, larger class sizes and students of different ages in the classroom.”

Chandra Villanueva, a policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank, said the program should establish class size limits and should include funding for full-day pre-K programs, not just half-day programs. She also asked the education agency to consider setting the grant amount at the maximum $1,500 per student.

After the hearing, Villanueva said the funding allocated for the program is relatively small, so its impact depends on which districts receive the funding.

“The grants aren’t really that significant in the big picture of things,” Villanueva said. But, she added, “if we focus on quality and really try to build up a cohort of quality programs, then we could potentially make that scaleable for the rest of the state and bring those quality measures to more districts.”

Disclosure: The Center for Public Policy Priorities is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, pol itics, government and statewide issues.

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