Group studying need for free pre-school seeks community input
April 13th, 2017 under Top Stories
By CAMERON DODD
PRESIDIO — A statewide organization is seeking community input to gauge demand for bringing a potential early childhood educational program for the children of agriculture workers to Presidio. Parents who might use such a program are encouraged to complete short surveys by the end of April.
Teaching and Mentoring Communities (TMC) of Texas runs federally funded Head Start programs across the state of Texas, offering free early childhood education to the children of migrants and agriculture workers. The organization helps give more than 5,000 Texas children access to nutrition, language and other subjects as early as six weeks old.
The Lubbock-based TMC branch is currently exploring the demand for a free Head Start program in Presidio. TMC coordinator Adela de Leon spoke at a recent Presidio Parent Teacher Organization meeting and is continuing to solicit community input as her organization weighs the feasibility of a Head Start program in Presidio at no cost to Presidio residents or taxpayers.
“It’s really important for children to get involved in early educational programs,” De Leon told the Presidio International. “Because it gives kids a head start, they can be 99 percent ahead of their peers when they start school.”
TMC Head Start classes introduce children to educational subjects as well as nutrition lessons they can take home with them. And more importantly for border communities such as Presidio, all the classes are bilingual and can help students from Spanish-speaking households learn English at an earlier age.
“Early childhood education is crucial to making up the gap many Presidio kids have in speaking and reading in English and getting ready for kindergarten,” PISD superintendent Dennis McEntire said. “Now, when our kids start learning English in kindergarten it takes until third grade for them to catch up. Imagine where they’d be if they started at six weeks old.”
Presidio Independent School District has been working to bring an early childhood educational program to Presidio for years. The district was close this past fall to hosting a YWCA of El Paso early childhood learning center at its Brito building on the elementary school campus. Multiple classrooms were retrofitted to meet licensing requirements, equipment and educational materials were brought in and teachers were hired. The YWCA withdrew from the agreement just before the start of the 2016-2017 school year.
Still, the space is already for another early childhood education provider to move in.
“That’s exactly the same thing we have in our Head Start centers,” De Leon said of the Brito Building space.
The program would be 100 percent free for parents who work in agriculture jobs. The primary thing TMC needs from Presidio parents is demonstrable interest. De Leon needs to be able to provide proof to her organization that enough Presidio families could benefit from a free Head Start program.
“I need to provide proof that there is interest,” she said.
Although Presidio’s farming industry is not the large employer it once was, there are still many people employed in agriculture jobs that could qualify their families for free Head Start through TMC, McEntire said. Employees of Village Farms’ hydroponic tomato plants or employees of trucking companies that haul cattle, for example, are agriculture jobs. When the Biad Chili Products plant opens and hires locals, those jobs could qualify as well.
Having the Head Start program for the children of agriculture workers up and running would also open the door for an early childhood education provider for other children to start up sharing the Brito Building space with TMC, McEntire said.
The program also promises to hire local college-educated instructors as much as possible. With a requisite student-teacher ratio of one teacher and one teacher’s aid for every four students, TMC head start could quickly be one of the larger employers in Presidio.
A survey with instructions in English and Spanish is available on the Presidio ISD website. For more information, contact Adela De Leon at 1-888-837-5151.