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PNGISD discusses full day Pre-K requirements

PORT NECHES — House Bill 3 was passed by the 86th Texas Legislature earlier this year requiring districts across the country to move from a half-day prekindergarten schedule to full time, a decree that can pose a problem for schools in constructional transition, such as the Port Neches-Groves Independent School District.

PNGISD Assistant Superintendent Julie Gauthier said the first step in the process includes looking for partnerships.

“We have to go out first and make a call for partnerships with local early learning centers in our community,” she said. “So we will see what comes in with that.”

Although the district has had some initial offers, Gauthier said it would take a large facility and several additional staff and services to accommodate all qualified prekindergarteners in the area.

“[The daycares] will have to have enough space and certified teachers for everyone,” she said. “The partnership process is meant to build relationships and build confidence with early learning centers in the area, but finding the right one could be a challenge.”

At the Board of Trustees meeting in February, all interested day cares will be presented. If no capable building has been found, the district will move forward with the waiver process, which will allow them to delay the start of the program until the new Pre-K-2 campuses are built under the 2019 bond.

“Right now, our classrooms are full to capacity, but when we build our new campuses it will be an early learning center so we will have the space and teachers available to house all the kids who qualify,” Gauthier said.

Right now, the schools are operating on a current half-day morning and night schedule, but Gauthier said she is expecting the new full time schedule to be profitable.

Sarah Walker, a current Pre-K educator at the West Groves Education Center, said the full day program benefits student experiences in many ways.

“Pre-K is important, especially with an all day program,” she said. “Teachers can help the students develop their academic and emotional skills that they might not always have before entering kindergarten.

“The main thing is that we will also be available to have more time to teach these skills to them, which is important because it will help solidify the things that they will be learning.”

As a teacher, Walker said it would allow the programs to fund computer labs, library programs and P.E. time.

“With a half-day program, there isn’t time for us to have those extra classes,” she said. “We will be able to experience all those and bring a variety of experiences to our kids.”

Walker said parents would also be able to maintain an easier work schedule without breaking to pick up their children.

“Right now, with it only be a three-hour program, it’s a harder schedule for the parents, so this will allow some of them to lengthen the hours at their job,” she said.

Gauthier said the district is excited to begin this program, even if it begins a couple years down the road.

“The early intervention research speaks volumes for childhood development,” she said. “We are thrilled and can’t wait to be able to provide that facility and service to our community.”

Those interested in business partnerships with the district can contact Gauthier at 409-722-4244 ext. 1725 or gauthier@pngisd.org.