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Registration underway for Summer VPK program

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Feb 26, 2021

news@breeznewspapers.com

Registration is now open for a shortened summer Voluntary Prekindergarten program, which is being offered at Sunshine Elementary School and the Early Childhood Learning Center.

Head Start Program Coordinator Tiffany Franklin said with lot of children staying home this year due to COVID, they are trying to reach more kids and help provide them with some school readiness. She said summer VPK is a requirement, as the School District of lee County takes funding to provide 300 hours for children that are eligible.

The summer program is open to students who will turn 5 years old by Sept. 1 and have not accessed the VPK program during the school year.

“This is a shorter summer, provided that the rule has not changed, and at this point it has not, we will run from June 22, right when school gets out, to July 30, just before teachers return, from 7 a.m. to 5:40 p.m.,” Franklin said.

She explained that there is a certified teacher that goes through and gives breaks to the teachers, so even if the regular teacher is not in the class, the children still are learning and getting what they need.

The two sites that will hold the VPK program are Sunshine Elementary School, 601 Sara Ave. N., Lehigh Acres, and the Early Childhood Learning Center, 3650 Michigan Ave., Fort Myers.

There is a capacity of 12 classrooms for the summer VPK program, although Franklin said they do not anticipate filling all of them. In a typical summer, they usually fill about three to four classrooms, or have between 54 and 72 students.

The goal is to keep the classes under 12 students,  the state cap.  If the classroom exceeds 12 students, there will be two teachers, or paraprofessional to support that teacher.

“All of our teachers are certified by the state, a pre-k primary certification. They have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a Florida state teacher certification,” Franklin said.

The very first day of the summer program will include an orientation for parents, so they understand what kinds of things the student will be expected to do, as well as learn, and how the teacher will facilitate that. Summer VPK will focus on language, literacy and math skills, as well as social skills in a play-base environment.

“Those are the biggest determinants to a successful kindergarten year leading up to third grade. Kids need to be able to read, that is really what the focus is,” Franklin said.

They will have outdoor play, so  children can get active. For those students who may need a little bit of rest, time will be provided by teachers, if needed. There will also be small and large groups.

“Masks are mandatory for teachers and students. If students haven’t been wearing them and don’t know how, the teacher’s role is to help them understand why they need to wear them and the correct way to wear them, so they understand the why,” Franklin said.

Those interested in participating in the program can do so by calling the Early Childhood Center at (239) 332-2512 to set up an appointment. Enrollment can also be done at James Stephens International Academy, 1333 Marsh Ave., Fort Myers, through the month of March from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. without an appointment.

Before being enrolled, the student needs a VPK voucher from the Early Learning Coalition, which can be done at www.elcofswfl.org, or by visiting in person at 2675 Winkler Ave., Fort Myers.

“When they come to the Early Childhood Center they will need the voucher and kindergarten enrollment information, the child’s birth certificate and proof of address,” Franklin said. “It’s a free program to all families with 4 year olds going into kindergarten in the fall in Florida.”

There is no deadline to register, unless the seats fill up prior to the first day of class.