Conroe ISD debuts pilot full-day pre-K programs at Sam Houston, Houser

The Texas Education Agency released its 2018-19 accountability ratings on Aug. 15.

The Texas Education Agency released its 2018-19 accountability ratings on Aug. 15.

Conroe ISD has started a pilot program to offer full-day pre-K at two of its elementary campuses this fall.

House Bill 3, the state’s public education finance reform bill, was signed into law June 11. Part of the bill mandated school districts offer full-day pre-K to eligible 4-year-olds, which include students who receive free or reduced-price lunches and those who have difficulty speaking English.

CISD Director of Communications Sarah Blakelock said the pilot will be at Sam Houston and Houser elementary schools, selected based on their locations and classroom space.

Blakelock said Sam Houston is anticipating 82 pre-K students for the pilot, and Houser anticipates 39.

“The pilot will allow the district to monitor the program[’s] implementation on a small scale before expanding the program districtwide,” Blakelock said. “Full-day pre-K will also allow students more time for academic and social [and] emotional development.”

Following the pilot program, CISD plans to start offering full-day pre-K options at all campuses currently offering half-day programs.

At a June 5 board meeting, Deputy Superintendent Chris Hines said CISD will serve 1,468 pre-K students in the 2019-20 school year. He said he believes early education can have a huge effect on a child’s education.

“The acquiring of those skills early really makes a difference. Once gaps grow, it’s very difficult for students to close the gaps,” Hines said. “It really is about trying to target students for accelerated learning rates.”

CISD trustee Scott Moore suggested constructing a specialized pre-K center to serve the some of the more densely populated areas in the district, but the board agreed more research was needed.

School districts have access to two three-year vouchers to extend the deadline for the mandate to provide the necessary facilities. CISD officials have indicated the district plans to use at least one voucher.

At an Aug. 20 board meeting, Chief Financial Officer Darren Rice said the program would cost about $5 million to start, not including the cost of additional classroom space.

HB 3 provided an early education allotment of $616 for each kindergarten to third-grade student who is economically disadvantaged or an English language learner, which can be used to help implement the full-day pre-K mandate.

State funding to CISD increased from $8.93 million to $41.45 million as part of the bill. However, HB 3 also requires districts provide increased teacher compensation and other new programs as well as full-day pre-K.

Superintendent Curtis Null said CISD could need 50 more teachers and classrooms to provide districtwide full-day pre-K.

“It’s likely to be 50 more teachers [and] 50 more classrooms needed to go full-day,” Null said. “Our goal is to get there as quickly as possible. When that is, it’s hard to say.”
By Andy Li


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