Fort Bend ISD adapts to full-day pre-K implementation

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At the beginning of the school year, Fort Bend ISD was required by Texas law to convert its half-day prekindergarten program into a full-day program. This change brought increased costs and staffing needs to the district, said Carmela Levy-David, FBISD’s assistant superintendent for early childhood and school improvement.

The change to full-day pre-K comes after the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 3 during the 86th regular legislative session.

Levy-David said students who meet income, language or other eligibility requirements can enroll in FBISD pre-K.

Between when the bill was signed by the governor in June and the start of school, Levy-David said they had to work across departments to plan for staffing and how to obtain furniture and instructional resources for the classrooms.

“We had probably lead time of about three weeks before we had to put all of these pieces in place to be ready for an August start date,” Levy-David said.

Another challenge she said the district ran into was recruiting the necessary additional certified teachers. Levy-David said the district hired 57 teachers and a number of paraprofessionals to maintain an 11-1 student-teacher ratio in the classrooms.

Amanda Bubela, FBISD’s director of external communications and media relations, said HB 3 did not change the funding for pre-K, but did create a new Early Education Allotment to help fund pre-K through third grade programs. The district does not anticipate the funding to cover the full cost of expanding to full-day pre-K, Bubela said.

“All throughout the legislative session as we knew these conversations were going on, that was a part of the budget planning process, was to make sure that we were making these considerations and adding them to the budget,” Bubela said.

Levy-David said feedback from the community has been overwhelmingly positive and that district staff thinks this was a good change.

“This has been a tremendous benefit to not only the families in the district, but our students who are now able to begin mastering lots and lots of literacy skills, social skills, social-emotional skills at a very early age,” Levy-David said. “So that is only going to create a great deal of advantage for them moving forward.”

Pre-K programs are currently offered at 25 schools throughout the district. Bubela said there is a seat available in the district’s pre-K program for any eligible student even if there is not a program at the campus the student is zoned to attend.

Levy-David said there are approximately 1,856 students enrolled in pre-K throughout the district. Last school year, FBISD had 1,520 students enrolled in pre-K, and in the 2017-2018 school year there were 1,388 students enrolled. Bubela said staff anticipates enrollment numbers to continue to grow going forward, as it is easier for working parents to send their students to a full-day pre-K program.

“Our ultimate goal every year is that if there is a child that’s eligible to participate in this program, we want them to enroll in this program because we know it is going to be beneficial for their future learning,” Bubela said.
By Claire Shoop

Reporter, Northwest Austin

Claire joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2019 as the reporter for the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition and in December 2021 moved to Austin to become the reporter for the Northwest Austin edition. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in May 2019 where she studied journalism, government and Arabic. While in school, Claire was a fellow for The Texas Tribune, worked for the student newspaper, The Daily Texan, and spent a semester in Washington, D.C. She enjoys playing cards with her family and listening to the Boss, Bruce Springsteen.