AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Funding for full day pre-kindergarten classes is coming from the state, after being passed in this year’s Legislative Session.
If the school already had full day classes available, they are able to use the money where they need.
Willow Vista started classes last year and are now able to double in size to four pre-kindergarten classes, as well as have one early childhood special education teacher.
“When pre-K children show up for the first day of kindergarten and have had that full day experience, it’s pretty obvious on day one to the kindergarten teacher that these children have had some experiences that now can be beneficial to them for their learning that year, where they now need to know how to read. Kindergarten is the new first grade,” said Willow Vista Principal Dana Bowlin.
Canyon ISD will be applying for a waiver this year and will not be having full pre-kindergarten in Hillside, Reeves-Hinger and Lakeview Elementary due to lack of space on campus.
Amarillo ISD had eight classes at Carver, but the district will now have 26 district-wide classes.
Bushland ISD will also be offering full day pre-kindergarten.
Bowling wanted parents to know that early childhood development teaching is not an entry level job because it is the foundation of learning for these children.
“They are the most qualified, because the way young children learn can set the tone for their learning for the future. Dispositions for learning are set by age six or seven, and so we want to make sure that our teachers of young children are the best," said Bowlin.
Willow Vista received positive feedback from parents last school year about the full day pre-kindergarten classes, saying half day classes made it tough on families to find transportation and a place for their child for the other half of the day.
Full day classes running from 7:45 a.m. until 3:20 p.m. was said to help families out while helping children learn.
“It takes an entire team and a culture to touch families, and for families to also understand that they are the first teachers, and so we are helping families address those things before they even come to school,” said Bowlin.
A pre-kindergarten classroom looks much different than any other classroom, as the students learn by play and are focusing on how to share and what they are feeling.
“We also build in a snack, and of course there’s guidelines in the pre-k curriculum that talks about healthy eating and stuff like that, and so it all fits nicely into a continuum of educational experiences for children during the day," said Bowlin.
Pre-kindergarten is free for military families, children in foster care, River Road district employees, and families who qualify for free and reduced lunch.
If you don’t fall under these categories, there is a tuition fee.
Regardless, lunch is free for all pre-kindergarten students.