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MCISD discusses Pre-K program

The Mission Consolidated Independent School District met this week to discuss several items, including the Prekindergarten program.

Dr. Sharon Roberts, the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, presented the item on the Prekindergarten program. Roberts said MCISD started a partnership with the Hidalgo County Head Start Program in 2017 on a School Readiness Partnership Model, and during the meeting the board of trustees approved a full-day pre-kindergarten waiver for the program.

This model is designed to provide Head Start services to age- and income-eligible Pre-K children in collaboration with Mission CISD. According to Roberts, the intentions are to collaboratively develop and foster a cohesive partnership to provide a high quality early childhood program for children and their families. 

“To ensure each agency assumes the responsibility to communicate with the other and share leadership responsibilities to maximize resources, and to ensure collaboration, arrangements between Mission CISD and Hidalgo County Head Start Program are developed, implemented and reviewed annually to improve quality services,” Roberts said. “Under this agreement, Mission CISD will provide educational and supportive services to ensure children and families are school ready.”

Students under this model are dual enrolled at Mission CISD and the Head Start Program, and curriculum is designed to provide the delivery of a dual language program.

“The overall education program is based on the 2015 Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework,” Roberts said. “[It] represents the continuum for learning for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers across the five essential domains, which are approaches to learning, social emotional development, language and literacy, cognition, and perceptual, motor and physical development.”

Currently, five Head Start centers are located within Mission CISD, four in Mission and one in Alton. They provide services to over 400 children, and based on the agreement MCISD is required to provide one district-funded teacher for every two classrooms.

At the Feb. 22, 2017, regular board meeting, trustees approved the MOU with Hidalgo County Head Start Program to be implemented in the 2017-2018 school year. During that school year MCISD provided 11 certified early childhood teachers to deliver 3 hours of instruction. The enrollment for this program was 431.

Head Start program officials and district officials met on Oct. 4, 2019 to discuss the potential of housing Head Start Centers in district-owned facilities. The entities revised the agreement “to incorporate the District housing of Mission I Head Start Center located on 115 Mayberry.”

“District administration worked with Head Start to relocate existing portables from Mission High School to Castro Elementary to relocate the Mission I Head Start Center,” Roberts said.

Under House Bill 3, districts with open-enrollment charters are required to offer full-day pre-K programs to eligible four-year-old children. Districts are able to be exempted if the implementation of this kind of program requires a district to build classroom facilities or result in fewer eligible children enrolled.

“A district or charter school may only receive an exemption if it has solicited and considered at a public meeting a proposal for partnerships with public or private entities regarding pre-kindergarten classes,” Roberts said. “A decision of the board of trustees or governing board regarding a partnership is final.”

The exemption may be granted for a period of three school years, and may be renewed once. Because the district is already offering pre-K classes to children who are three and four years old, they are already compliant with House Bill 3, but MCISD administration wanted to submit a three-year waiver for our students who are dual enrolled with the Hidalgo County Head Start Program.

The waivers are for full-time teachers in the Head Start Program.

“It’s simply because Head Start already has a teacher and paraprofessional involved,” Superintendent Carol Perez said. “So we want to continue with the practice of providing a teacher, where our teachers are able to supplement for the beginning and the end.”

Trinidad Peña, the principal at Leal Elementary, one of the campuses currently offering pre-K services, noted considerable improvement in the students involved in the program.

“We hold everyone accountable at our campus,” Peña said. “So when Pre-K 3 joined us this year, I was not going to back down.”

Peña met with the teachers, explaining that while it may be difficult with children crying, running and needing diaper changes, they were still going to learn. She presented a few charts detailing their improvements in phonics and several other skills in just a year’s time – for example, students have improved from 19 percent to 63 percent retention in phonics from pre-K 3 to pre-K 4.

“It took maybe six weeks, but they learned structure,” Peña said. “And once they learned structure, the learning started.”

The board approved the waiver unanimously.

This article originally appeared in the Friday, Feb. 14, 2020 issue of the Progress Times.

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