Starting after the new year, Millsap Elementary School will offer full-day pre-kindergarten for eligible students.
The state requires schools to offer half-day pre-kindergarten for students who qualify. However, schools can offer full-day pre-kindergarten since state legislators funded it in House Bill 3, which passed earlier this year.
Full-day pre-kindergarten will be available for free to all students who qualify through the state’s criteria as well as for some students on a tuition basis, MES Principal Cathy Bradshaw said.
“There’s a lot of benefits for full-day pre-K, getting them into the structure of school, being able to add additional academic skills and social skills,” Bradshaw said.
MES pre-kindergarten teacher Bambi King said the new schedule will allow for two center times, which are times for individual learning among students in small groups.
“Currently, we have to split that 60-minute time between a small group for literacy and a small group for math,” King said. “Going full-day means that we can extend that time and during one entire 60-minute time period, we can spend only working on literacy and then in the afternoon, for example, during that center time, we can only work on math. So, it gives us more time to work with those kids that may need more time with it, more experience.”
The full-day schedule also benefits parents, especially for those who work outside of Millsap, in terms of dropping off and picking up kids, Bradshaw said.
Millsap ISD started researching a full-day pre-kindergarten program before the legislation passed, so the administration started a transition plan once HB 3 was finalized, MISD Assistant Superintendent Edie Martin said. This included hiring another pre-kindergarten teacher, who has been working since this past summer, and alerting parents to the transition at midterm. Both pre-kindergarten teachers have separate half-day classes that will transition to full-day classes.
Each pre-kindergarten teacher will have a paraprofessional to assist them in class, Bradshaw said.
The transition process has included coaching from the Region 11 Education Service Center, evaluation of the program, planning the new schedule and arranging for bus transportation, Martin said.
Buses will be marked with animal stickers so pre-kindergarten riders identify their bus, Bradshaw said. Bus drivers will also know which students are on their bus and assist in making sure the students exit the buses at their correct stop.
“Safety in the school and safety on the bus is always a top priority,” Martin said. “But, now we’re taking 4-year-olds and we’re transitioning them from the school to the bus, so how we do that safely and effectively and make sure they have a partner on the bus, those have all been part of our discussions for our planning for this transition.”
The district will host parent meetings regarding full-day pre-kindergarten on Monday, one at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., in the elementary school library, Martin said.