Preschool for all - What is happening in Clovis

Ginger Thomas, Director Child Development

Special to CUSD Today

Preschool or Pre-K programs are found throughout the Clovis Unified community and are offered in a variety of wonderful settings. Quality preschool programs can be found in licensed home settings and centers as well as in private and faith based centers. A quality preschool is not synonymous with quality day care. Preschool parents do have choices but it is imperative they do the research needed to find a program that aligns with their family needs and has the quality indicators necessary for student success. Parents need to ask critical questions to determine if the preschool program has a clearly articulated curriculum offered by staff with educational backgrounds in early childhood education.
This article focuses on the preschool programs that are presently available for the families living within the Clovis Unified School District with an emphasis on those programs administered by the school district.
The Child Development Department operates State Funded Preschool programs for income eligible families as well as a fee-based program for interested families. Twenty-six morning classes and fourteen afternoon classes serving over 850 children are available at twenty three of the Clovis elementary campuses. The State-Funded and Fee-Based Prekindergarten Enrichment Program provides three hours of quality learning opportunities five days per week. To participate in this three-hour enrichment program:
Priority is given to children who are 4 years old by December 2.
Child must be 3 years 9 months old.
Priority is given to income eligible families.
Be current on all immunizations.
You must meet the state income guideline to qualify for the no-cost program.
Fee-based program is $20.00 per day. The program implements the PreKindergarten Core Curriculum Standards which were developed to align with the CUSD kindergarten curriculum and the Pre-K Guidelines developed by the California State Department of Education. Lesson plans and learning activities are created to meet the individual learning and growing needs of each student. This program offers developmentally appropriate curriculum activities in the areas of science, math, early literacy and the fine arts. The development of appropriate social skills with peers and staff is provided in a licensed classroom environment with a ratio of eight children to one qualified staff member. A maximum of 24 students per class is maintained.
Parents are invited to attend monthly interactive meetings, formal and informal parent conferences, as well as opportunities for parent involvement as a parent volunteer. The program also includes a link to community resource information, home safety seminars, and parent CPR classes. The CUSD PreKindergarten Enrichment Program is now accepting applications for the 2005-06 school year. You may enroll your child at any time during the school year. Although applications are available at each CUSD elementary school office, when completed they must be submitted to the Child Development Office in the District Services Building at 1735 David E. Cook Way, Suite C. Parents seeking more information about the State-Funded or Fee-based PreKindergarten Enrichment Program should call the CUSD Child Development Office at 327-9180.
Head Start, a federally funded Pre-K program operated by Fresno County’s Equal Opportunities Commission, is offered on the Sierra Vista and Pinedale campuses to income eligible families. The Even Start Program, operated by the Clovis Adult School through a federal grant is offered at three sites in the district. Featured in the Feb. 5 edition of CUSD Today, Even Start offers a comprehensive family literacy component for parents attending adult education classes. The CUSD Special Education Department offers an early intervention service system for families of infants and toddlers with identified disabilities.
The most recent educational buzz seems to center around “Universal Preschool” or “Voluntary Preschool for All.” Pick up the newspaper, turn on the TV or even the radio as you are driving to work and you will hear yet another endorsement for providing a quality preschool opportunity for all California’s four year-olds.
With the passage of Proposition 10, “The Children and Families First Act of 1998,” First Five Fresno County was created with a focus on programs, services, and resources for enhancing the early childhood development and well-being of children 0 -5 years. An explosion of research confirms that 90 percent of brain development takes place during these first five years of a child’s life. The “First Five” message endorsing the importance of preschool has provided the community with a compelling argument for enrolling our four year-olds in a quality preschool. The message angered some, created guilt in others and left some parents confused as to how they could afford a quality preschool program. Others are confused as to what it is that determines “quality” in a preschool program.
Momentum is building at both the state and local levels for a voluntary, publicly- funded preschool for all system in California. There are many questions that need to be answered about this idea, including how it will be administered, what it would look like, what it would cost and who would pay for it. Preschool California, established with support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, has made a multi-year commitment to an advocacy campaign to achieve voluntary preschool for all in California. Preschool California recommends that California establish a voluntary preschool-for-all system for its four-year-olds that will:
Meet established standards for quality;
Attract and retain professionals who are educated and compensated at levels comparable to teachers in California’s K-12 system;
Take place in a variety of settings, including public and private child-care centers and family child care homes, Head Start programs and school;
Be offered in culturally, ethnically, and linguistically appropriate settings and developed in concert with an infrastructure for educating a culturally, ethnically and linguistically diverse workforce;
Be inclusive of children with special needs;
Link to full-day early care and education programs to meet the needs of working families; and
Be publicly funded.
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O’Connell, has stated that he is “convinced that through either legislation or a ballot initiative, California should and will find a way to make voluntary universal preschool a reality”. The California Department of Education is presently developing a draft of preschool standards for public review this spring. The healthy debate on “Voluntary Preschool for All” will continue as California’s citizens work collaboratively to develop the best strategy for educating California’s 4 year-olds.