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With schools closed until early May, the reality that many of our city’s children rely on schools for more than just an education is setting in. Michael Guerra of the San Antonio Food Bank tells me that more than 200,000 children in Bexar County are at risk for hunger when schools are closed. As a former educator, I am able to reflect on my own experiences of what goes beyond teaching.
Teaching is the desire to serve your students, not just in learning, but also in providing a safety net for their needs. There are children in this city for whom the only safe place is their school, where they know they’ll be fed and where they have someone who cares about them. Pre-K 4 SA is that safe place for many; it’s a program that goes beyond providing high-quality early childhood education. It offers family support and provides nutritious meal services to many of their students and families. Especially during this time of uncertainty, families will rely on the security this program provides daily.
Pre-K 4 SA teachers have been working tirelessly to create a curriculum of online learning that will support parents through uncharted territory. These educators, who thrive on interactions with their pupils to make teaching meaningful and fulfilling, now sit behind a camera attempting to make it work for every type of learner. They want to maintain some sense of normalcy for their students by utilizing virtual tours of the zoo, museums, and also by reading books to maintain their literacy progress. Additionally, the team is working to provide technology such as iPads and laptops to families that need them to bridge the digital divide in our community.
Beyond their educational needs, teachers and staff volunteers, with the support of the San Antonio Food Bank, provide between 200-500 meals a day to current families and alumni of the program. The goal is to guarantee uninterrupted meal services to combat hunger. That alone is a testament to the positive impact that Pre-K 4 SA has on our community.
In February of this year, I was asked to be one of the chairs for the campaign to continue funding for Pre-K 4 SA. My background in education, and the proven success of the program, made my decision to champion this cause an easy one. Even more so now, this tragedy that is COVID-19 has revealed an understanding that we, as a society, underappreciate the efforts and capabilities of our teachers and education system.
On the other side of this health crisis, I want San Antonio to realize the value of Pre-K 4 SA and the efforts of their team that greatly impacts the community they serve. I urge City Council to make the decision to move the initiative to the November ballot and to stay focused on the critical need for this program to continue uninterrupted. It is imperative to these families, today more than ever, to have access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs like Pre-K 4 SA.