March 31, 2013

Grapevine-Colleyville considering fee-based pre-K

Parents of young children are being asked to weigh in on a tuition-based pre-kindergarten program being considered in the Grapevine-Colleyville school district.

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Parents of young children are being asked to weigh in on a tuition-based pre-kindergarten program being considered in the Grapevine-Colleyville school district.

The new program could include specialized classes in language, math and science, or fine arts, if interest warrants, said Shiela Neal, executive director of instructional leadership.

"We are not certain we're going to offer a fee-based pre-K yet," said Neal. "Our first step is to roll out the survey and see if there's interest."

Private schools and daycares in the Grapevine-Colleyville area offer tuition-based pre-kindergarten programs, Neal said. The programs are geared toward students who are not eligible for the district's free programs for 4-year-olds.

Students are eligible for free programs in the district if they don't speak or understand English, are educationally disadvantaged, are homeless, are children of an active-duty member of the armed forces or one who was injured or killed while on active duty, or are under the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services.

"Anyone in our community who has children of pre-kindergarten age is invited and encouraged to share their feedback in our online survey," said Rick Westfall, chief learning officer for the district. "This is different from the state-required pre-K program. This would be a tuition-based program that allows families to join the GCISD experience even sooner."

The survey asks parents to comment on their preferences regarding campuses, half- or full-day programs, areas of program interest, breakfast and lunch options, and whether to offer an extended childcare program. The survey is available on the district's website,

Tuition costs have not yet been established.

"After we collect survey data, we will make those decisions," said Neal. "Do we have enough feedback, does it fit our community, are they interested in dual-language or the other options?"

The district currently has 78 English-speaking students in the state-funded half-day pre-kindergarten program, and an additional 89 in pre-K bilingual classes. Cannon, Glenhope, Timberline and Silver Lake elementary schools offer pre-kindergarten classes, but Glenhope does not offer bilingual classes. Qualifying students from anywhere in the district can attend pre-kindergarten programs at those four campuses.

Pre-kindergarten students fare much better in kindergarten than their peers, Neal said.

"The sooner you can begin working with students, especially in language immersion, the sooner they read and write," she said. "They've had a year of socialization prior to kindergarten and are better able to adjust to that full day of kindergarten."

The survey feedback could help the district plan specialized programs for other grade levels as well, school officials say.

Past interest in a dual-language pre-kindergarten class was high among Grapevine and Colleyville parents.

In March 2010, parents camped out to enroll their children in the district's first dual-language program at Silver Lake Elementary School. The incoming kindergarteners and first-graders admitted to the program were paired as they advanced through elementary school, and are learning to speak, read and write in two languages.

Silver Lake, Dove and Timberline elementary schools now offer dual-language programs.

The science and math track also is likely to draw parent interest.

Last fall, Cannon Elementary School teachers and administrators started an ambitious curriculum that centers on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at all grade levels. The curriculum could earn a prestigious STEM Academy designation for the school as early as this fall.

"We are seeing that in order to meet the changing needs of society, we are looking at what we're offering in addition to the core curriculum offered by the state," Neal said. "For us, the question is how do we expand our services to our community?"

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

Twitter: @startelegram

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