New Registration For Full-Day Pre-K In The Arlington ISD Gets A New Look
The 2020-2021 school year will bring a monumental change to Arlington ISD’s prekindergarten program. For the first time, the AISD will offer full-day Pre-K for 4-year-olds at nearly all elementary schools. Half-day Pre-K will still be offered for 3-year-olds. Registration opens Monday, April 20.
This big change is going to have a major impact on students, but it’s also going to require renovations and construction – funded by the 2019 Bond – to make sure each campus can provide the district’s youngest learners the best possible educational experience all day long.
According to Ken Foster, a Pre-K ESL teacher at Kooken Education Center, full-day Pre-K is going to benefit the students, along with their teachers and families.
“Full-day Pre-K permits teachers to have more time to implement effective instructional strategies,” Foster said. “It allows teachers to dwell on important topics to build meaning and bring relevance to the students’ lives. Teachers will have more opportunities to build relationships with the students and their learning. Students will have more time to connect their learning with their families and communities.”
The introduction of full-day Pre-K means students will spend the entire day at school, which essentially doubles the need for classrooms and teachers. Enrollment is also expected to grow, increasing the need for classrooms and teachers even more.
The State of Texas will fund program costs like teachers, teaching assistants and other program needs, but it will not fund facility needs or classroom modifications to implement full-day Pre-K. The AISD plans to provide classrooms designed specifically for Pre-K for approximately 4,100 full-day eligible Pre-K students through renovations to existing classrooms or through classroom additions depending on individual campus needs.
That’s where the 2019 Bond comes in. The bond, which passed in November 2019, includes funds for the facility renovations and furnishings needed to ensure every elementary school’s Pre-K classrooms meet district standards.
“The standard Pre-K classroom at AISD elementary schools is expected to have a restroom contained within the classroom and space to accommodate the district’s new furniture and equipment specification,” said Kelly Horn, AISD executive director of plant services. “The district’s plant services team worked closely with administration to assess both space needs and equipment needs to facilitate our current Pre-K student enrollment and possible enrollment growth.”
That means the district is about to build a lot of new bathrooms.
A restroom in each Pre-K classroom is essential. Most Pre-K students are not developmentally prepared to walk out from their classroom to use a restroom without supervision. For most toddlers and preschoolers, Pre-K is their first experience away from home.
“As Pre-K teachers, we help our young learners in so many different areas, not just academically,” said Nora Cloud, a Pre-K ESL teacher at Duff Elementary. “One major skill we focus on, especially in the first semester, is how and when to take a restroom break while at school. Four and 5-year-old children need to have immediate access to safe and private facilities for many reasons.”
“Pre-K students are learning how to become independent, and most of them are still developing self-control skills,” said Dr. Jackeline Orsini, AISD director of early childhood learning.
While the restroom in the classroom gives students quick access, it also enables the teacher to assist and monitor the entire classroom at all times.
“Having a child-height sink and toilet in each Pre-K classroom enables teachers to remain in their room with all students while monitoring bathroom activities” Orsini said. “Lessons and instructional activities are not interrupted, and safety is ensured throughout the day.”
“The teachers need to be able to monitor who takes a restroom break,” Cloud said. “This is difficult to do while teaching the rest of the class. It is also important to have the facilities to provide assistance, if necessary, while honoring the privacy of not only the Pre-K child but the other students in the building as well.”
Just as Pre-K students need child-sized bathroom facilities, they also need child-sized furniture. To that end, all pre-K classrooms will also get new age-appropriate furnishings funded by the 2019 Bond.
Orsini and her Pre-K team believe that furniture and materials play an important role in developing fundamental early childhood skills. The way the physical environment is designed and configured influences how children feel, act and behave. A child who feels welcomed and secure will be more productive, engaged and excited about learning new things.
The new furniture the district has selected will support those goals. Sized appropriately for the children, the furniture will also be spaced in a way that promotes good traffic flow, allows for large and small groups, and gives the room an open, interactive feel. The furniture is low and creates well-defined boundaries to allow the teacher an unobstructed view of the children at all times.
The furniture and room layout will also create six or seven well-defined centers in the classroom, each with a variety of materials to develop fine and gross motor skills and to promote creativity, interaction among the children and sensory stimulation. The centers will also integrate a variety of different learning concepts that incorporate mathematics, science, phonological awareness, reading aloud, motivation to read, letter knowledge, technology, written expression, print and book awareness, and language development.
“Learning doesn’t just happen by mere attendance,” Foster said. “It needs to be cultivated over time in an environment where teachers have freedom to explore, investigate, practice and yes, ‘play’ with the students and the new information they receive.”
The new furnishings, bathrooms and renovations are designed to do just that.
The new furnishings will all be purchased and installed in the first two years of the 2019 Bond program, and construction for renovations will be phased over five years. The schools in phase one are currently in design.