By expanding its prekindergarten program to full-day, Mission CISD hopes to improve the area literacy rate and reduce remediation in the long run, according to Superintendent Ricardo Lopez.
Rep. Sergio Muñoz filed a bill aimed to reinstate full-day pre-K in Texas, but Lopez said that students cannot wait for a bill that may or may not pass. MCISD will offer open enrollment full-day prekindergarten starting in the 2015-2016 school year.
“Every year we wait, more and more kids are not being educated to the standards that we want them,” Lopez said. “This is about our community and it’s such a great endeavor that we need to start it now.”
The initiative will be funded by the district, with a total budget between $1.7 million and $2 million, most of that going to staff. There are 23 pre-K teachers in the district – one teacher and one aide in the classroom – but that number is going to double once the program expands. In addition, the district needs to look into how much busing will go up and minor classroom renovations such as repainting walls.
Each year the district uses cost-cutting formulas to phase out projects as part of standard procedure. The add up has allowed MCISD to budget enough to get the full-day pre-K off the ground since it was cut in 2011.
As of now, Mission’s half-day pre-K has two cohorts – one in the morning, the other in the afternoon – with a district total of 747 students. Under the Texas Education Code, children who are non-English speakers and come from low-income families qualify for full-day prekindergarten. Lopez said he anticipates an increase of anywhere from 150 to 200 students because of open enrollment.
“The reason why we did it for all is because…we’ve got families that are in the bubble,” Lopez said. “These parents are doing all the right things, they’re working, some of them two or three shifts to make ends meet and because of that they don’t qualify for pre-K. Those students still need it.”
The extended day will not only give teachers more instruction time, but also allow students to experience the school environment in all its entirety. Because there is only time for about three hours of rubric, students are limited to one room.
“For half day, they don’t have PE, we do the music in the classroom for them. In the full day they actually go out to the library, gym, music room,” said Norma Lopez, a 12-year MCISD prekindergarten teacher. “I think they feel like they are more part of the school and not just confined to the classroom.”
As both a kindergarten and pre-K teacher, Norma Lopez said she has seen the difference in skill sets with those who attend full-day and half-day programs. By the time a student enters kindergarten, they need to know letter names, sounds, high-frequency words, shapes, colors and numbers up to 20. With full-day pre-K, the teacher can set aside enrichment periods to further develop the students and allow them more time to use the provided technology.
“There’s just going to be so much opportunities for us to work with them and give them ample time to learn the skills that they need to acquire in pre-K,” Norma Lopez said. They’ll leave pre-K with a stronger foundation that would help them in kinder and the subsequent years.”