Florida’s new universal pre-kindergarten program begins this month. Parents need to register their children at one of five places listed at the end of this story. There, they’ll get a certificate of eligibility for their four-year-olds, and take it to the certified voluntary pre-k location of their choice. There are 126 providers in Lee, Collier, Glades and Hendry counties—ranging from public schools to churches to day care centers. Barbara Saunders is the head of the Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida, which runs the program for the region. She fears parents will just put children on busses heading to public school. So, plans are in place to deal with any misunderstandings on the first day.
“We’re going to have staff stationed in all of the school districts. To not only redirect parents but to make sure the children are safe, parents know exactly who to call in their community to get the exact information they need and we’ll have lists of providers on hand. And we’re hoping that parents are understanding. This is the very first year of universal pre kindergarten.”
Parents can register at one of five locations in Southwest Florida – Child Care of Southwest Florida offices in Naples or Fort Myers, The Career and Service Centers in Immokalee and Fort Myers and the United Way House in Labelle. Children need to be four years old on or before September first. Bring a certified copy of their birth record and proof of Florida residency. The free program will offer 540 hours during the school year – which comes to about 3 hours a day. Transportation is not provided.
Wednesday, 03 August 2005 01:00