• March 3, 2021

ECISD working toward serving 1,000 3-year-olds - Odessa American: ECISD

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ECISD working toward serving 1,000 3-year-olds

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Posted: Sunday, January 17, 2021 4:00 am

In the coming school year, Ector County ISD plans to start serving about 1,000 3-year-old prekindergarten students.

At the Board of Trustees workshop Jan. 12, the board discussed a partnership with the Odessa Family YMCA to accommodate the expansion in August 2021.

Through the Call for Quality Schools, the Odessa Family YMCA completed a rigorous process conducted by a diverse committee, the board recap said.

The Y currently serves children 6 weeks to 12 years old at its existing three locations. It plans to use its new building on Pagewood Avenue as the site for 150 3-year-olds with potential for expansion, the recap said.

The Y has a “whole child” educational plan and academic model designed for literacy development and logical math discovery that lead to kindergarten readiness — one of the primary tenets of ECISD’s strategic plan, the recap said.

The school board must still approve this partnership at next week’s meeting and then negotiate a contract with the YMCA, the recap said. The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday in the first-floor board room of the administration building, 802 N. Sam Houston Ave. Face masks are required and health screenings will be conducted.

Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Lilia Nañez said ECISD serves 93 three-year-olds and has room for more at Carver and Lamar early education centers.

“Some of those are like the Child Find where we find children that may have special needs. They’re not labeled as special needs yet because they’re so young, but we do serve 3-year-olds both at Carver and Lamar right now. We also allow employees’ 3-year-old children to attend those classes as well,” Nañez said.

The goal of prekindergarten is to prepare children for kindergarten.

“When you think about what kindergarten readiness means it’s having pre-reading and writing skills, working on your gross and fine motor skills, developing language and communication, focusing on health and wellness, cooperation. … Those are some of the indicators for kindergarten readiness, so we focus on those for our 3-year-old (children),” Nañez said.

“We also teach health and wellness, the importance of washing your hands, brushing your teeth; just teaching good hygiene; exercise. We provide balanced meals so health and wellness, social and emotional well being is just so important,” she added.

Nañez said there is space to serve as many as 200 3-year-olds at Carver and Lamar.

“Our goal is to fill those classrooms first with 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds. We have engaged in a Call for Quality Schools 1882 innovation partnerships. We’ve gone through that process and interviewed two possible partners. We will be taking a possible partner to the board for approval this month in January,” Nañez said.

The partnership will help increase capacity to accommodate children.

The decision to pursue offering school to 3-year-olds came from Superintendent Scott Muri’s look, listen and learn tour when he first arrived.

Fifty-seven percent of kindergartners who attended prekindergarten were not kindergarten ready in 2019 and 65 percent of kindergarteners were not ready for kindergarten in 2019, a previous Odessa American article said.

Prekindergarten for 4-year-olds was increased to full day and the 3-year-old program will be half a day.

“… Whenever the board approves a partner, the employees and all of that is up for negotiation. Obviously we want certified teachers that can lead a team of paraprofessionals so all of that will be up for negotiation in the partnership contract,” Nañez said.

“… We’re probably going to use a model similar to multi-classroom leader model from our Opportunity Culture where one certified teacher kind of mentors and works with a team of teachers. We will use that model with our 3-year-old program. So we’ll have a certified teacher that will work with several caregivers to provide the curriculum to teach, model and just build the capacity of the caregiver. …,” Nañez added.

She stressed that nothing is set in stone yet because the board has to approve the partner.

“Then once approval is made this month in January, then … it’s part of the negotiation for the contract. We have to have everything ready by March, but we want to get those negotiations done as soon as possible so then that application can be completed and submitted to the Texas Education Agency.”

She added that just knowing the impact the district can have on that large amount of students is exciting.

“Adding the 3-year-old students makes sense,” Executive Director of Leadership Andrea Martin said in an email. “These students and families would be a part of our district and would be provided support and quality instruction at an even earlier age. We have the talent and desire to serve these babies in ECISD. The planning and conversations around this new initiative have been very engaging and exciting as we continue to think about the possibilities.”

The pandemic has reduced numbers among its prekindergarten ranks. But she indicated the district is confident many more students will join up.

ECISD will work with the partner to orient the parents, offering visits prior to school starting so they can become familiar with the facility.

She added that preregistration is important.

“… We do a lot of recruitment prior to school starting and that starts in the spring, so we will be doing that with our partner just like we do with our pre-k roundup and our kindergarten roundup,” Nañez said.

To be eligible for free prekindergarten, you must have a language other than English; qualify for free and reduced lunch; be homeless; have guardians in the military; be in foster care; or have a guardian who has the Star of Texas designation meaning a first responder, law enforcement or military member killed or injured in the line of duty.

The cost is $200 a month for tuition.

She noted that the number of children who enroll for prekindergarten will depend on the health crisis and how Ector County looks over the summer.

“… We are all hoping that the vaccine has a positive impact on the health situation in Ector County and that folks testing positive are reduced. It’s all just based on that. If things are much improved, which is what we’re anticipating, then we anticipate we’ll have many more prek families and kindergarten (families) show up. Really across the state and across the nation there’s been a reduction in prek kids that have enrolled because of the pandemic. Parents have chosen to keep their children at home for safety. It’s not just here, but it’s across the state and across the country” Nañez said.

She added that the majority of prekindergarten students are in classrooms currently.

“… We don’t have very many of them that are doing remote learning. We do that as an option for any of our parents’ children to be in a building. But the bulk of our 4-year-olds right now are in classrooms. That is a good thing. We are just very hopeful that … the conditions will be much improved when school starts and that we want our children in our buildings,” Nañez said.

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