Ashley Davis, PISD’s director of pre-K and elementary education, told the board of trustees at an Oct. 18 work session that PISD added two classes before the start of the school year and is in the process of adding three more. That will bring the total number of pre-K classes to 71 with an enrollment of 1,242 students this year, she said.
“We always get excited when we see our numbers growing,” Davis said.
The boost in enrollment could signal future growth in the district that has seen its overall student population trending down in recent years, according to Johnny Hill, deputy superintendent for business and employee services.
“The really exciting part about us having a rebound on the number of kids that are coming into the pre-K program is the fact that we have a very high level of once we capture those kids into our school district, they stay in our school district,” Hill told the board.
PISD used to offer a mix of half-day and full-day pre-K programs. With the passage of Texas House Bill 3 in 2019, the state mandated that school districts transition to a full-day program. PISD made the move to full-day pre-K for all students in the 2020-21 school year, Davis said.
Students have to meet one of seven eligibility requirements to qualify for the full day pre-K. The majority in PISD qualify as economically disadvantaged or English as a second language students, Davis said.
The free, full-day program is also open to students who are homeless, students who have a parent on active duty in the military; students whose parent was injured or killed while on active military duty; students who are or have been in the foster care system; and students who have a parent working as a peace officer, firefighter or emergency medical first responder. Those who do not qualify for the free program may pay a $550 monthly tuition fee, Davis said.
Classes are offered at the district’s three early childhood schools and its Head Start campus as well as at 15 elementary schools. Davis said the goal is to continue tracking where students live and determine whether there is a need to add space at more elementary campuses.
“Our goal now is just find where we have high populations who qualify for pre-K and make sure we have space available for them to attend school,” Davis said.