Functions at the moment are being accepted for the Lee County college district’s soon-to-open preschool on the campus of James Stephens International Academy in Fort Myers.
Referred to as the James Stephens Pre-K Center, the standalone, two-building facility was created throughout a $1.8 million renovation of the varsity. It’s able to serving 234 college students.
The primary class of 4-year-olds will begin assembly this month, an essential milestone for the varsity district’s formidable plan to enhance its low kindergarten readiness fee.
As a part of its 10-year plan, district officers need two-thirds of its kindergarten college students to have been taught in a district-affiliated preschool. To do that, the district is making room for 200 new preschool seats a 12 months, with the hopes of reaching the 66% mark by 2030.
The aim stems from Lee’s poor exhibiting within the statewide rating for kindergarten readiness.
In response to fall 2019 data from the Florida Department of Education, Lee County tied with Suwannee County for having 41% of its kindergarteners check as being prepared for varsity, forward of solely Lafayette, Okeechobee, Jefferson and DeSoto counties. There are 67 college districts in Florida.
Neighboring counties scored higher:
- Collier: 46%
- Charlotte: 47%
- Glades: 58%
- Hendry: 60%
Readiness charges are primarily based on the outcomes of a pc check that quizzes kindergarteners on curriculum used within the state’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program. The examination is taken with a mouse, not a touchpad, and it’s taken through the first 30 days of college.
The aim of the check is to judge the success of preschools that provide VPK, a state-funded program. The outcomes additionally assist faculties gauge what interventions are wanted within the classroom.
Faculty leaders say that is essential as a result of the achievement hole could be seen in college students as younger as kindergarten. Some college students begin college figuring out how you can learn and depend, whereas others could not personal a e-book or have had any publicity to letters, numbers, phonics or different early studying expertise.
The priority is that as youngsters develop, the variations amongst studying teams do, too.
Marsha Bur, the director of early childhood studying companies within the district, is a former elementary college principal. She mentioned the distinction between youngsters who’ve realized these expertise earlier than kindergarten is “apparent.”
“There’s an apparent distinction within the kindergarten classroom of these kiddos who’ve had this expertise and have developed among the foundational expertise that they should be profitable learners and those who haven’t,” she mentioned. “They stand out like a sore thumb. There is a actually huge distinction.”
The college district is residence to 19 early studying websites. Except for the Early Childhood Training Middle in Fort Myers, the soon-to-open campus at James Stephens would be the first to be housed in a standalone constructing.
Final 12 months, this system at James Stephens was supplied to 36 college students in two preschool school rooms on the conventional elementary college website. Many of the others are housed in portables at elementary faculties.
New beginnings at James Stephens
The ultimate walk-through of the preschool at James Stephens was accomplished earlier than winter break, and the middle’s first-class of scholars will start studying on website this month. A precise date has not been introduced.
Till 2016, the Fort Myers college housed a mixture of elementary and center college college students. When the varsity stopped serving grades 6-8, area grew to become obtainable on campus.
Over the past 12 months, a renovation remodeled two underused buildings behind campus into the brand new preschool facility.
The preschool is fenced off from the primary college, that means it has its personal workplace area, car parking zone and entry, which could be accessed from Clotilde Avenue. Whereas college students will initially use a playground on the neighboring college, the preschool will quickly have its personal playground and tricycle monitor.
This system will begin off in a single classroom, which contains a colourful design and a number of other learn-through-play facilities, similar to a kitchen, eating desk and workbench. Books made for tiny palms fill the classroom library, and there’s loads of area for college students to maneuver round all day.
It’s not a spot the place college students will probably be compelled to sit down in a desk all day or do worksheets, mentioned Tiffany Franklin, a coordinator for the division of instructing and studying.
“Our aim is to actually assist them perceive how you can navigate their setting,” she mentioned.
This system emphasizes social-emotional expertise, which incorporates ideas like sharing, cooperation, respect for others and self-control.
Usually, staff seek advice from the early studying system as an intervention program.
“We do not solely take youngsters that meet the essential standards of revenue and age, however we even have an eligibility standards which identifies high-risk elements in households, and we attempt to settle for the households with the very best threat elements in our group,” mentioned Marlen Solana-Negron, a soon-to-retire coordinator for the district’s household and group engagement division.
She mentioned it isn’t unusual for households to have involvement with the Florida Division of Kids and Households, recognized substance abuse or have skilled trauma, divorce or loss.
“We establish all these standards, and the households which are at-most threat are those who get into our program,” she mentioned.
“We’re intervention,” added Shatreetia Cordell, who’s a Head Begin curriculum specialist for the district. “We’ve got among the neediest youngsters which are in these communities, and it is our job that we offer them alternatives to develop a love of studying.”
Except for the social features of education, this system additionally tackles the necessities of the VPK curriculum. The district sees the mix of those parts serving to college students discover success early in life in order that they have a brighter future.
“Beginning younger and beginning robust positively will higher put together them to achieve success in class after which in life after that,” mentioned Bur, the early studying director.
The right way to apply
Previous to winter break, three college students had been signed as much as begin this month. Up to now, one trainer has been employed, and shortly a paraprofessional spot will open up.
As enrollment grows, so will this system.
Along with the classroom employees, the Pre-Okay at James Stephens will make use of a household and group crew, which features a nurse, household advocate, a clerk on the entrance desk, a curriculum specialist and an administrative crew.
Functions could be accepted on-line at https://eclc.leeschools.net/our_school/application_information, and households can name 239-332-2512 for extra data.
Household revenue will probably be verified throughout a screening course of, and households might want to present the district with a duplicate of the kid’s beginning certificates to indicate the coed will probably be 4 years outdated by Sept. 1.
If supplied a seat in this system, households might want to apply for a VPK voucher via the Early Studying Coalition of Southwest Florida. This ensures the state can pay for 3 hours per day of education.
Funding from Head Begin will present wrap-around companies so the children can attend the complete day of college at no cost. The federal program provides early childhood schooling and different companies to youngsters from low-income households.
To assist fill seats, employees are additionally reaching out to households on the wait checklist at district-run preschool applications which are close to James Stephens. This consists of Harns Marsh, Tice and Orange River elementary faculties in addition to the Early Childhood Middle.
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