TAMPA, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed two bills aimed at improving early childhood education in the state. He said this will help increase Florida’s kindergarten readiness rate, which was at 57% in 2020.
Meanwhile, Summer VPK (voluntary pre-kindergarten) programs are underway and enrollment is starting to rebound after declines caused by the pandemic.
What You Need To Know
- Gov. DeSantis recently signed two bills aimed at improving early childhood education
- VPK enrollment is increasing after declines during the pandemic
- 500 students are already enrolled with Hillsborough County Schools, with more than 1,000 expected to participate in the fall.
“We get them ready to start their career in school,” said Sandra Show, Supervisor of Hillsborough County Public Schools VPK Program. “So it involves things like learning how to listen to their teacher, to follow directions, to sit and listen to a book and listen to a story, to engage in a science project, all those things they haven’t done before.”
Educators said the pandemic has caused some children to become isolated, which could have an impact on their readiness for kindergarten, and even affect their learning down the road.
“There is a group coming in to kindergarten right now that very honestly might never have stepped foot in brick-and-mortar classrooms before, so kindergarten might be their first experience,” said Amanda Osorio, Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction, Early Childhood Education.
Many school districts report the pandemic caused a decline in VPK enrollment, however there are signs that trend is reversing.
For example, Hillsborough County Schools had about 300 students enrolled in the summer VPK program last summer.
This year, it’s already at 500 students with more than 1,000 expected to participate in the fall.
“What we’ve noticed is that students that come to our Pre-K programs, our Early Childhood programs, are better prepared. It’s just like anything else, the earlier you start with something, the faster you can master it,” said Kevin Kastner, Principal of West Tampa Elementary School.
Educators said VPK programs can also help them close any learning gaps before a student enters kindergarten.