A sunny day at the Pre-K 4 SA South Campus. Photo by Bekah McNeel.

Pre-K 4 SA continues to prove its value for the city’s tiniest learners and their families. This past academic year, with all four campuses up and running, 1,500 San Antonio area students received full-day, pre-kindergarten education. For the 2015-16 school year, that number will grow to 1,700 as the program scales to reach the goal that voters affirmed in 2012.

Applications open today. The program is free for eligible families in participating districts. Students outside the district, or those who do no meet the financial need requirements, are encouraged to apply for the slots available on a sliding scale tuition.

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Those who apply online at www.sanantonio.gov/PreK4SA before April 5 will be enrolled in a priority lottery. Applications will be accepted through August to fill any remaining slots.

The school year begins on Aug. 24, and school days start at 8 a.m., ending at 3 p.m. Child care is available before school starting at 7:15 a.m., and goes until 6 p.m. after school. Busses are available to transport the children to the centers, and they are fed breakfast, lunch and two healthy snacks.

While its success as a social program is obvious, Pre-K 4 SA’s more remarkable achievement is in preparing children for kindergarten. Last year Pre-K 4 SA student performance was measured according to the Teaching Strategies Gold Assessment. Between 80-90 % of Pre-K 4 SA students had knowledge, skills, and behaviors meeting or exceeding other children being assessed. The program really is working, not just in giving children a nurturing environment with good meals and engaging activities, but as the first steps of their actual education.

Pre-K 4 SA CEO Kathy Bruck and Board Chair Elaine Mendoza.
Pre-K 4 SA CEO Kathy Bruck and Board Chair Elaine Mendoza.

The assessment should offer some reassurance to those who feel that standardized testing used to measure older students’ performance is reductionist and simplistic. The Teaching Strategies Gold Assessment gives a much more robust and comprehensive understanding of what the children are actually learning. It measures not only knowledge, but the skills and behaviors that indicate future success.

“We are approaching our third academic year encouraged by the success of our students and families, and enthusiastic about continuing to strengthen our relationships with participating school districts,” said Pre-K 4 SA CEO Kathy Bruck.

San Antonio voters should feel proud of what the program has accomplished. The city has put its investment where its mouth is when it comes to the value of early childhood education.

Under Bruck’s leadership together with an active and expert board, Pre-K 4 SA was done right, and it was done well. As the program scales, reaching for 3,700 kids by the 2016-17 school year, we can expect to hear more success stories as the wee scholars progress through their education, building on the foundation they received from a city that cares about their well-being.

*Featured/top image: A sunny day at the Pre-K 4 SA South Campus. Photo by Bekah McNeel.

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Bekah McNeel

Bekah McNeel is a native San Antonian. You can also find her at her blog, FreeBekah.com, on Twitter @BekahMcneel, and on Instagram @wanderbekah.