School districts across the state are preparing to adjust to new rules regarding pre-K programs. One of the many financial provisions included in HB3, the state legislature’s school finance bill, includes funding for school districts to offer full day pre-K programs.
The eligibility requirements are the same as previous pre-K requirements, but the funding will allow district’s to offer a 6-hour pre-K day instead of the previous three-hour day.
In order for a student to enroll in the pre-K program the student must meet one of the state’s elligibility requirements. Those include a student who is unable to speak or comprehend English, economically disadvantaged such as students in the free or reduced lunch program, students who are homeless, those in the care of the Department Family and Protective Services, a child of an active duty member of the armed forces or a child of an individual who is eligible for the Star of Texas award.
As a new bill, Sherman Independent School District Superintendent David Hicks said he thinks it will benefit area students.
“Full day pre-K will be beneficial to Sherman ISD,” Hicks said. “Our district’s commitment will be to dedicate as much resources and support as we can to expand the pre-K program. As a district we are supportive of offering high-quality instruction that is critical to developing literacy and math skills in young children.”
SISD is still working out how it can make accommodations in the coming months to meet the new regulations.
“The considerations we have to face include space and staffing,” Hicks said. “There are opportunities to work with pre-K providers in our community as well as expanding our existing programs. Over our next year, we will be investigating in each of those opportunities.”
Denison Director of Assessment and Special Programs Regina Prigge said Denison ISD already offers full day head-start and bi-lingual programs. She said the district will seek a waiver from the state for the first year to work out some of the issues the district is facing with overcrowding at several elementary school campuses. The district would be able to apply for the waiver annually depending on classroom size and other hardship factors.
The district has been pushing for a bond to expand two campuses to meet the needs of the district. At a recent study session held by the DISD school board, trustee Bob Rhoden raised concerns over the pending mandatory pre-K program, and DISD Superintendent Henry Scott said the district couldn’t predict what the increase would look like, and that the district needed to apply for the waiver while looking to address those crowding issues.
Prigge said the district already offers several options for students who meet state eligibility criteria for that program. She said the district plans on expanding to full day once the district has addressed the issue of where to house the students.
“Our district fully supports full day pre-K,” Prigge said. “We think it will be a great benefit to our students and our families. It will improve learning outcome for students. We think it is a very positive thing. Going from half day to full day offers more opportunities to students,” Prigge said. “It will help prepare them to be kindergarten ready.”
Prigge said the Texas Education Agency was set to send out additional information on the program in the near future and the district would have a better idea what it will look like at that time.
What do you think of the states expansion of pre-K programs? Let Herald Democrat reporter Richard A. Todd know by email Rtodd@HeraldDemocrat.com