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Tell Me More About This "Free Preschool Thing" ... Fact Or Fantasy?

Q: For what were we voting in the 2004 elections; smaller classes or free preschool?

A: Both. On the ballots, were the options to create a free preschool program for all children and a mandatory smaller class size rule for public schools. Much to the dismay of politicians, who had to create a budget for these programs, both amendments passed.

The free preschool for all children was called "Universal Pre-K" and has since been changed to "Voluntary Pre-K."

Q: Does my family qualify for free preschool?

A: Yes, everyone qualifies. This program is not based on financial need or special educational needs as previous programs have been. Your child must be 4 years old by September 1 st of the preschool academic year to be eligible.

Q: Where will the public schools put preschool classes? They are already overcrowded!

A: The public schools will not be the typical setting for this program. Private schools, church programs, and qualified day care centers will provide the service to families.

Q: How do I get my child enrolled in one of these programs?

A: You can call day care centers or faith-based schools who currently provide preschool education and ask them if they participate in the voluntary pre-kindergarten program. If they say "yes" then ask enrollment details. For a list of providers in your area you may call the Hillsborough Early Learning Coalition (813)515-2340. You should also go to the elchc's website at www.elchc.org and fill out the online forms that put you on their mailing list for the latest information. Playtime Learning Academy is a certified provider. Part time and extended day classes are available. To start VPK at a school of your choice, first complete the VPK certificate application online at: www.elchc.org (click on "Families" and then "VPK for Families"). You will receive the VPK certificate by email which you will then sign and bring to your preschool for enrollment.

Q: How many hours will my child attend school in this program?

A: The Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten classes are three hours per day, five days per week.

Providers will likely set up a schedule of 8am-llam or 9am-12pm for classes. Some may offer afternoon schedules as well. Each provider will set the schedule that best blends into their current academic schedule. The "free" part of this preschool program only refers to a three hour period

of the day. If you prefer that your child attend a full day program, you will need to pay an "extended day fee" that will vary by school. Also keep in mind that the program will run on the same schedule as Hillsborough County schools, so the students will have the same vacation days and teacher conference days off I:>ay care centers may offer care on these days for an additional fee if they have the space to do so.

Q: How big will these classes be?

A: The classes are required to have one certified teacher per ten students. Most schools will set up classes of ten with one teacher; but some may prefer to set up a class of twenty with two certified teachers.

Q: Where can I find more information?

The best way to stay informed is to keep checking the state's website for updates and details. (www.vpkflorida.org) You can also e-mail your questions to Playtime and we'll do our best to help you out. Use the feedback page on our website to send your questions.




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