Hillsborough's Summer Pre-K a Big Hit With Parents

Pre - K
TAMPA -

Parents offered a range of feedback about Hillsborough's summer pre-K program.

Some suggested an easier enrollment process while one parent asked for more variety with lunches.

HAINES: The first day when I visited and I saw the food looked exactly like airline food, so it was balanced but it wasn't something where you had choice.

Dr. Joyce Haines is Hillsborough School's general director of elementary education. She led a team of administrators, teachers, principals and staff had to build the summer pre-k program from scratch.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego headed up the effort that covered everything from determining food service to designing curriculum.

GREGO: There were a lof issues. Let's face it - we've never done a voluntary pre-K program, so everything we were doing was for the first time.

Grego will measure the success of the Hillsborough's first year - in part - from the pre-K parental surveys. Thirty-five percent of the parents returned questionnaires.

Grego reads one parent's response when asked if their child talked about the program at home:

GREGO: Yes, everything. She sings me songs she's learned. She tells me everything about her day what she ate. Everything, she loves her teachers. So when you see that growth you know that the program's been successful. And think about where their starting out not only in the readiness for kindergarten, but the benefits that will pay off long term.

Unlike the part-time pre-K programs offered by many of the private providers -Hillsborough's public school program ran all day. In fact, the four-year-olds spent 10 1/2 hours in school every day.

But instead of creating a burden, 96 percent of the parents found the extended hours helpful. Elementary Education director Haines:

HAINES: We wanted a program that was easily accessible. If the parent is going to have the child in some sort of day care in the afternoon, we thought better to provide instructional program accommodate working parents as well as non working parents. That turned out to be a real asset.

She says the curriculum calls for a new activity every 15 minutes that varies in group size and level of involvement. Haines credits the kindergarten teachers for helping to define the pre-K lesson plans.

HAINES: Each day they knew what should be done, and suggestions for doing that so we could have a highly consistent program as well as having a high-performing program

The next step is to measure what the students learned during their pre-K experience. Assistant Superintendent Grego says the state mandates that all kindergarteners be tested for readiness.

GREGO: What we're going to do is see how our 1,100 VPK students who attended this program see how they did and we'll get with our assessment office to see if the program in the summer really made a difference.

But parents are already reporting a difference. Several say that their children have started to read.

And lastly, 100 percent of the responding parents say they would recommend the Hillsborough public school pre-K program.

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