With the signing of House Bill 3 into law, the Bryan school district is preparing to expand its full-day pre-kindergarten services.
The school funding bill passed by the Texas Legislature and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott last week extends funding from half-day pre-kindergarten to full-day programs. Students who had qualified for free half-day pre-kindergarten at Bryan schools will now receive free full-day pre-kindergarten services.
The district currently serves 690 students in its half-day program at six sites, Associate Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Barbara Ybarra told the school board at its Monday meeting. With those six sites, the district tries to keep an 11:1 student-to-teacher ratio in pre-K classrooms.
If every student who qualifies for pre-K enrolls in the free full-day program, she said, the district would need 20 additional teachers and 26 additional instructional aides.
The locations would expand to accommodate the added classrooms. Ideally, Ybarra said, students would attend their zoned school, but once that space fills, the district will begin placing students into nearby schools that have available spots.
Following Ybarra’s presentation on the full-day pre-K program, board members agreed to spend $600,000 to equip approximately 20 additional pre-K classrooms.
“The set-up for a new pre-K classroom runs approximately [$28,000] to $30,000 each for a one-time expenditure,” Ybarra said. “It includes everything from little round tables to cubicles and cubbies to instructional materials — alphabet blocks, all sorts of things.”
The district plans to have the classrooms set up before school begins.
The first step, though, is to register students so the district can have an estimated enrollment count to determine how many teachers and aides need to be hired and how much furniture and supplies need to be purchased, Ybarra said.
To get that count, the district will have centralized pre-K registration at the Administration Building, 801 S. Ennis St., on Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and June 27 from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., as well as July 11 and 18. The registration roundup scheduled for July 25 at Kemp-Carver Elementary School will continue as scheduled from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The program will include breakfast and lunch, and transportation will be provided if requested. There are no requirements to qualify for transportation, Ybarra said, but an adult must meet the child at the bus stop after school.
Bryan Superintendent Christie Whitbeck said a full-day pre-kindergarten curriculum has already been planned because district employees were preparing for a tuition-based full-day pre-kindergarten option.
The tuition-based option will still be available to students who do not qualify for free services, and the estimated 20 additional classrooms should accommodate qualifying pre-K students and tuition-based students.
Students who already qualified for the free half-day program and were going to be paying for the other half of the day will automatically qualify for the free full-day program.
A student who is 4 years old on or before Sept. 1 of the school year is eligible for the pre-kindergarten program if they are unable to speak and comprehend English; qualifies for the national free and reduced lunch program; is homeless; is the child of an active-duty member of the U.S. military; is a child of a U.S. military member who was injured or killed on active duty; is in foster care; or is the child of a peace officer, firefighter or emergency medical first responder who is eligible for the Star of Texas Award, awarded to those who are killed or suffer serious injury in the line of duty.
“We do know in Bryan ISD that when our students attend pre-K with us, they enter kindergarten at higher reading levels than those who do not,” Ybarra said. “It’s important to try to get as many as we can into the schools and being supported by our teachers.”