First Day of School Printables

The first day of school isn’t complete without the annual “first day picture.” Check out the Pre-K 4 SA and Gardendale printable signs below. No printer? No problem. We’ll have plenty printed out and ready for you during drop off.

If you upload your picture to social media, don’t forget to tag us @prek4sa!

These signs are meant to be printed on an 8.5×11 paper, portrait orientation and full color.

Budget-Friendly Summer Activities the Entire Family Can Enjoy

Are you looking for affordable, family-friendly activities for the summer? At Pre-K 4 SA, we love to provide our families with fun and interactive ways to continue learning throughout the summer. Every year our team researches budget-friendly activities your entire family can enjoy. Let San Antonio become the classroom as you explore local parks, historic city sites, art exhibits, museums, pools and more.

Be sure to check out the list of events that Pre-K 4 SA is hosting or participating in this summer and join us for some summer fun!

Click the link below to download the 2022 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities guide. We hope you and your family have a wonderful summer!

Budget-Friendly Summer Fun 2022

 

 

 

Keeping the Pre-K 4 SA Promise – Increasing Access to Early Learning for San Antonio Families

The Parent Café was already buzzing with new families talking with enrollment team members and registering their 4-year-olds for the 2022-2023 school year. You could hear the excitement in the children’s voices as they spoke to their parents and wandered around, smiling at new faces or sitting down on the couch with a cautious enthusiasm to share a book with another child.

And as of May 9, Pre-K 4 SA has opened enrollment for 3-year-olds too. When the news reached one of the families in the Parent Café, both the mom and little boys smiled and clapped together, knowing they could enroll both children.

Research indicates 90% of brain development occurs before the age of five. This is when the foundations of language, social, and emotional growth, key factors in future academic success, are created and developed.

“We know that one year of high-quality early learning has demonstrated proven long-term success for children,” Pre-K 4 SA CEO Sarah Baray said. “National research indicates that two years of pre-k is exponentially better and has immediate, short term and long-term benefits to children, families, and the community. And we are seeing a need for access for 3-year-olds, especially coming out of the pandemic.”

Pre-K 4 SA also saw a need to help San Antonio’s working, middle-class families who may need financial support but do not already qualify for free, high-quality pre-K through Texas Education Agency (TEA) guidelines. Families can receive additional tuition assistance through its expanded scholarship structure, which now provides free pre-K to those families making up to $75,000. Families can easily determine their personal investment in their child’s learning at Pre-K 4 SA by accessing the scholarship calculator.

Brenda Rosas has three boys who attended Pre-K 4 SA. She feels her children were better prepared for elementary school than their peers.

“Pre-K 4 SA gives them a great head start to their education,” said Rosas. “I have an ongoing joke with the family liaison where I wish my children could have been here another year. The benefits are tremendous – they are prepared for elementary and beyond. And an extra year would have been great to give them the extra one-on-one time with the teacher but also help them thrive.”

Mrs. Rosas has seen the positive impact on high-quality early learning for all three of her boys. She believes her children are not only prepared more academically, but she has also seen social and emotional development of her children, which has helped her oldest son, who is now in middle school.

At Pre-K 4 SA, we understand that family members are a child’s first and most important teachers. Learning is collaborative and extends far beyond the classroom. Now, the same teachers, children, and families will work together for two years allowing for deeper learning and development both in and out of the classroom.

Just like our 4-year-olds, the 3-year-olds will receive the same benefits from Pre-K 4 SA, such as transportation with the 5-point safety harness, nutritious family-style meals and snacks, as well as access to extended-day care for our working families. We offer integrated, full inclusion classrooms with both 3- and 4-year-olds. This will help older children develop better leadership skills while the younger students learn from their interactions.

Opening enrollment to 3- and 4-year-olds and expanding the scholarship structure is part of Pre-K 4 SA’s commitment to providing high-quality, research-based early education that empowers children at a critical age for school and life success. To learn more about enrollment, please call 210-206-PREK or apply online. An enrollment specialist is available to answer any questions and support our families throughout the application and enrollment process.

How Pre-K 4 SA is helping the Child Care Shortage in San Antonio

Recognizing The Post-COVID Child Care Deficit

When Covid-19 shut the world down, millions of families no longer had a Child Care Center open to care for their children. As a result, many families turned to smaller, private family child care providers for assistance. Family child care providers already outnumbered Child Development Centers in the number of children served, and in the shadows of shelter in place, social distancing, and quarantine, they rose to the challenges facing the entire world by keeping their doors open for even more children. This often unnoticed sector shouldered the burden of avoiding economic collapse and continued serving working families. With this added responsibility, it’s time to step in, and Pre-K 4 SA wants to help.

Recognizing the Importance of the 0-5 Years

The first five years of human life are when 90% of brain development happens. The foundations of language and social and emotional growth, key factors in future academic success, are created with a proliferation of synaptic connections during this time period and subsequent pruning of those that are unused regularly starting around the age of 7. With the rest of a child’s life dependent on getting these early years right, we need to expand learning opportunities for all providers of care to young children to receive the training and support needed to build strong and healthy brains ready to learn.

Pre-K 4 SA Support and Resources Can Be Game-Changing

Family child care providers are nearly one hundred percent women-owned, mostly by women of color, and primarily serve other women who work non-traditional hours. They serve smaller ratios of children and are the primary choice for infant care across all socio-economic backgrounds. More than 7 million children ages five and under have their early learning experiences with family child care providers, and that is nearly double the number of children who are cared for in child development centers or school care (3.8 million). However, historically, the training and resources for them have not been prioritized.

In Texas, to open a home-based child care center, you must be 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a GED. The training requirements to open a center depend on what type of family child care you want to open. There are no training requirements to open a Listed Family Home, and for a Registered or Licensed Home, 30 clock hours of annual training are required. In contrast, Texas requires preschool teachers in the public school system to hold a college degree. So you can see the incredible need for support, collaboration and training to serve our birth-5 year population. 

Pre-K 4 SA’s Professional Learning Program Is Expanding Its Reach

Pre-K4SA understands that in order to meet its vision of increasing the number of high-quality early learning and care options for San Antonio from birth to age 5, our professional learning services need to expand to include these family child care providers throughout our city. Family child care providers are an increasingly important piece of the early learning infrastructure for our city’s families, economy, and future citizens, and we must continue to create opportunities for all young children to thrive in every setting they receive care.

That’s why Pre-K 4 SA has partnered with Avance, an organization delivering equitable access to resources and opportunities for predominately Latino children and families to reach their fullest potential. Together, they are providing a new program called Quality Child Care Matters (QCCM) to our city’s family child care homes. The program’s goal is to create communities of learning with family providers, with training on high-quality practices for the early stages of child development, and dialogue and support for needs specific to this type of childcare setting with the goal of increasing the number of high-quality options for San Antonio families seeking care for their children. The program is offered in English and Spanish and meets monthly as a group with individual support in between sessions.

If you or anyone you know is a child care provider, home-based or center-based, we encourage you to take advantage of these resources. You’ll be changing lives!

The next QCCM session will be April 30th on Business Policies and Procedures at the Pre-K 4 SA West Education Center from 8:00 to 11:00 AM. Interested providers are invited to join us and find out more by contacting Kristina Herrera.

Gracias San Antonio, Children’s Art Making a Difference within the San Antonio Community

For the last eight years, Pre-K 4 SA’s 4-year-olds have inspired local artists to create quality art pieces to benefit nonprofit initiatives.

At Pre-K 4 SA, through an innovative curriculum-driven program called Gracias San Antonio: Children Are Citizens, 4-year-olds are learning how to become civic-minded individuals; and they love every moment of supporting the community, creating art, and learning about local nonprofits. Gracias San Antonio is grounded in the belief that children are not just future citizens, but also are citizens of the city in the here and now, with the right to express their opinions and participate in the civic and cultural life of San Antonio.

“This is my eighth year with Pre-K 4 SA, and I feel Gracias gets better every year! It’s such an awesome event that allows our students to work alongside some of San Antonio’s best artists,” said Stephanie Flores, East Center master teacher.

Since 2013, Gracias San Antonio has raised more than $33,000 for the following nonprofits: Good Samaritan Community Services, San Antonio Humane Society, Any Baby Can of San Antonio, Children’s Shelter, Child Safe, St. Pj’s Children’s Home, and Therapy Animals of San Antonio.

Gracias San Antonio is a six-month project where children have the opportunity to vote for a nonprofit, explore the best of San Antonio’s landmarks, and bring their inspirations to life through art right in their classrooms.

Every year, in November, Pre-K 4 SA children vote in a school-wide election to select a nonprofit organization the children learn about and support throughout the year. On election day—scheduled on the same day as the actual election—Pre-K 4 SA’s Parent Cafés are transformed into mock-up voting polls. American flags and red, white, and blue streamers adorn the voting polls, and children one-by-one cast their vote as they choose their nonprofit of choice. Also, Pre-K 4 SA children, families, and staff participate in volunteer opportunities with the nonprofit.

In December, teachers invite children and their families to engage in City Explorations around San Antonio to help children learn about their city. San Antonio becomes the classroom and the children the explorers as they visit local parks, historic city sites, art exhibits, monuments, and local establishments. These explorations serve for children to gain ideas and inspiration for their art collaborations with their classroom artists.

In January and February, the art creation process begins. Pre-K 4 SA strongly believes that by engaging students in art experiences at a young age, children more deeply develop their thinking and creativity, learning to express themselves. Therefore, local artists join children in the classroom to create authentic art pieces using a variety of artistic mediums to express the children’s perspective of their city and the places they visit and explore. More than 100 art pieces are then displayed in a public gallery exhibit in April and auctioned to raise money for the selected nonprofit organization.

“Their own fearless creativity inspires me to create an art piece. As adults, we get used to being told, ‘this won’t work’ or ‘it has to be done this way’ that we hold our own creativity back. Kids don’t buy into that. Their imagination allows them to think outside of the box,” said Mary Klonek-Reyes, local San Antonio artist and returning Gracias volunteer. “I love how energetic and excited the kids get to learn new techniques and use new tools. Anything you teach a child has the ability to breathe new meaning into their existence, to open their eyes to new possibilities and new ways of thinking and feeling.”

The THRU Project was selected by children and their families as the 2021-2022 school year beneficiary nonprofit. Their mission is to help foster youth overcome the challenges of growing up in a foster care system by providing guidance, support, and advocacy to prepare them for life after foster care.

“The THRU Project team was thrilled to be selected as this year’s Gracias Project beneficiary by the youth and families at Pre-K 4 SA,” said Courtney Laverty, CFRE and CEO of THRU Project. “This partnership will enable us to provide mentors, life skills training and housing for current foster youth and those who have aged out. Thank you for helping to bridge the gap between foster care and adulthood!”

As the world becomes increasingly more globalized and connected, knowledge of ourselves as individual learners and as members of a community becomes more important. Through Gracias San Antonio children have the opportunity to become active contributors within their community in order to make their city a better place to work, play, and live.

Stay connected to Pre-K 4 SA’s social media platforms to find out more about our Gracias San Antonio yearly activities and to be the first one to know when the 2021-2022 Gracias San Antonio Online Art Auction opens.

Pre-K 4 SA Becomes a CDA Gold Standard Recipient

We are proud to announce that Pre-K 4 SA’s Professional Learning Department has been granted the prestigious CDA Gold Standard designation.

Professional Learning provides educators with high-quality support and credentialing programs so they can in turn provide a high-quality early education. This nationally recognized CDA designation serves as validation of the work Pre-K 4 SA does to deliver on the promise of creating positive systemic change.

“I was proud to have our CDA program nationally recognized for its high-quality,” said Kristina Herrera, Pre-K 4 SA assistant director of professional learning. “We are motivated to increase the quality of all early childhood programs throughout San Antonio, and the CDA is one way we are building staff qualifications in child care centers and programs.”

The CDA Gold Standard is part of the Council for Professional Recognition early childhood education effort to help CDA students find the high-quality training and student services they need in preparation for the CDA exam and a career as an early childhood educator. Having a CDA doesn’t just help educators bring out the best in children. Its purpose is to expand the knowledge base, experience, and quality of early childhood educators and is meant to be a stepping stone on the path of career advancement in education.

Earning the CDA Gold Standard is recognition that Pre-K 4 SA successfully demonstrates that its early childhood education training is based on the Council’s three industry-leading principles of 1) Alignment with the CDA formal education coursework found in the CDA’s Eight Subject areas, 2) Sound business policies and practices, and 3) Quality student services that meet their educational and professional needs.

In addition to offering high-quality training, Pre-K 4 SA demonstrates evidence that they serve the CDA student community with excellence, which includes professional development that prepares students for successful completion of their training program.

Pre-K 4 SA’s CDA credentialing program is dedicated to working with all of its participants to ensure everyone is prepared to pass the CDA exam and begin a successful career in high-quality early education. Therefore, Pre-K 4 SA provides the following for all participants:

  • Training-120 hours of professional education with a Professional Learning Specialist;
  • Materials-Use of the CDA textbooks while enrolled in the program;
  • Support- Assistance with Professional Portfolio creation, selection of a Professional Development Specialist, and test/observation registration.

Recently reauthorized Pre-K 4 SA is determined to strengthen San Antonio’s early learning infrastructure to create an equitable, affordable, high-quality early learning and care system for young children for the next eight years. With the CDA Gold Standard program, the Pre-K 4 SA Professional Learning team will continue increasing the number of qualified early learning educators throughout San Antonio.

To find out more about Pre-K 4 SA CDA program and its requirements, you can join KickUp to gain access and register for the CDA sessions, click here. Or, reach out to Kristina.herrera@sanantonio.gov if you have additional questions.

Tips for a Successful Start in your Child’s Education Journey

A child’s first day of Pre-K can bring a flood of emotions for parents and children. Joy and excitement over this milestone are often accompanied by some very normal moments of anxiety. This year concerns over COVID-19 present an added worry, and parents have to make very thoughtful decisions about what is best for their family and when, where and how their children will attend school. Once that decision has been made, it is important to celebrate this milestone with your child and spend some time talking about and preparing for the first day of school!

Some children handle changes in their routines better than others but all preschoolers will manage best with some preparation and specific support during the first couple of weeks of school. Some simple steps that will help you and your child manage this transition include:

  • Develop a nighttime routine with an early bedtime to ensure that your child is well rested. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 10-13 hours of sleep per 24 hours, (including naps) for children ages 3-6 years.
  • Establish a consistent morning routine to provide structure and practice it a few days before starting school.
  • Visit the school before the first day of school. If your child is attending Pre-K 4 SA, participation in Welcome Week provides your child with the opportunity to explore their new environment, and meet their teacher and some classmates. This experience also allows parents to become more familiar with their centers and start making supportive connections with teachers and other parents.
  • If your child talks about being scared, acknowledge their feelings and let them know that sometimes people feel a little scared when they start something new. Talk to your child about your first day of school and how you felt.
  • If your child asks questions about the pandemic and safety, let them know that their school listens to advice from doctors and medical professionals and works hard to keep everyone safe. Answer questions simply but truthfully.
  • Arrive at school on time. This is always important. During the first few days of school, arriving on time helps your child feel well oriented and a part of the group.
  • Read books about going to school such as It’s Time for Preschool by Esme Raj Codell, A Pocketful of Kisses by Audrey Penn and Will I have a Friend by Miriam Cohen.

Most of all, it’s important to remember that your child’s feelings and attitudes about coming to school will often mirror yours. Children pick up on their parent’s anxieties as well as their excitement. First days are special. Let’s work together to make them safe, joyful and memorable for children, parents and educators!

Written by: Maria Bayoumi, Pre-K 4 SA licensed specialist in school psychology

Retrofits and Protocols at Education Centers Contribute to Another Successful Academic Year

The 2020-2021 Pre-K SA Cohort completed their last day of school on Thursday, May 27 with an End of Year Parade. Families celebrated by decorating their cars in order to pick up their children at Pre-K 4 SA Education Centers and celebrate the work accomplished over the course of the school year.

As children waited for their parents to pass through the parade, they cheered and danced. One by one they collected their summer goody bags which included books, class photos, and their Pre-K 4 SA Certificate of Completion. Additionally, the San Antonio Food Bank along with H-E-B gave all of Pre-K 4 SA families a summer produce bag to start the summer with healthy food choices.

However, the 2020-2021 academic year didn’t start in such a positive manner. There was so much uncertainty about even starting a new school year with the rise of local and national COVID-19 cases. And, many parents were unsure about allowing their children to attend in-person classes.

In an effort to create options for families, Pre-K 4 SA, for the very first time, offered a remote learning track along with the traditional in-person option. This allowed parents to feel more at ease as they decided on the best option for their child’s education.

Additionally, Pre-K 4 SA worked with city leaders, health experts and their own guiding physicians to implement protocols that went above and beyond minimum standards in order to allow them to both have in-person classes and keep children, families and staff safe.

Before the 2020-2021 academic year began, the Pre-K 4 SA leadership and staff worked earnestly to make the appropriate retrofits to all of their Education Centers. Additionally, the creation of new procedures and protocols were set into place to keep all staff and children safe. More than 100 new comprehensive safety procedures and protocols were implemented as a reactive approach to keep others safe from confirmed COVID-19 cases.

At the same time, the Operations team installed over 1,870 touchless devices which helped tremendously decrease the spread of germs in high-contact surfaces. These devices included touchless sinks, doors, and paper towel dispensers. Each Center also received touchless thermometer stations which quickly allowed temperature checks for staff. The cost of all of these retrofits and improvements came out to approximately $900,000.  These measures were necessary to fulfill Pre-K 4 SA’s commitment to ensure the health and safety of its children, families, and staff.

Additionally, at that given time, the guidance on COVID-19 suggested the virus could spread through airborne transmission. To prevent this from happening, the HVAC systems at all four Education Centers were adjusted to bring more fresh air into the classrooms by adding higher grade air filters to capture germs.

Fortunately, all these retrofits and new safety protocols were effective to keep the 2020-2021 Cohort safe throughout the entire year. Pre-K 4 SA’s Leadership team is thankful to see how everyone worked together and as a team throughout the entire academic year to conclude successfully.

Now, as Pre-K 4 SA personnel looks to return to in-person classes for the 2021-2022 academic year, some safety and wellness protocols will still be in place. Curbside drop-off and pick-up will remain as an option for families. The use of touchless sinks and water fountains, and daily temperature scans will help prevent the spread of infections such as colds, flu, and strep, which is vital to keep children in school actively engaged in learning. These protocols will contribute to the year-round health of Pre-K 4 SA’s students, families, and staff.

4 Years Old, A Critical Age to Enroll into a Pre-K Program

February is upon us, which means it is time to start enrolling for the 2021-22 school year! Pre-K 4 SA will begin accepting applications Monday, February 1. Any child who will be four by September 1, 2021 is eligible to apply. The application and information about how to apply may be found on our Pre-K 4 SA Application Page.

Because the coronavirus continues to spread throughout our community, some families may be unsure about enrolling their 4-year-old in pre-K for the 2021-22 school year. These concerns are understandable. This school year has been difficult for everyone. But one thing we have learned is that schools are safe places. Pre-K 4 SA is fiercely committed to the health and safety of our children, families, and staff. We continuously monitor the situation and work with Metro Health and follow the CDC’s guidelines to ensure our centers can safely remain open. Our approach has proven effective at preventing the spread of the virus in our Education Centers. We will continue to apply our COVID-19 protocols as long as necessary, including into next year.

There is reason to be hopeful that by August we will be able to put our masks away. People are beginning to get vaccinated. By summer, the vaccine should be available to many more people and we will be closer to reaching herd immunity.

But regardless of what is happening with the pandemic, enrolling in high-quality pre-K helps children start strong.  Research out of Harvard University shows that young children’s brains are developing at high speed—over 1 million neural connections every second!

Pre-K 4 SA is designed to take advantage of this period of rapid brain growth to help children develop strong brain architecture that will support them throughout life. Our highly skilled teachers are specially trained to create classrooms that inspire and support the way children learn best—through play. And we use the HighScope curriculum, which is backed by more than 50 years of research that proves children continue to benefit long after they have left the pre-K classroom. Research done right here in San Antonio shows that children who attended Pre-K 4 SA had better third-grade math and reading scores than children who did not attend pre-K.

Pre-K 4 SA’s mission is to ensure all of San Antonio’s young children have access to high-quality early learning. Join us in encouraging all families with a 4-year-old to enroll as soon as possible to secure a seat for the 2021-2022 school year.

Written by: Sarah Baray, Pre-K 4 SA CEO

Pre-K 4 SA Continues to Pave the Way to a Brighter Future

“Now that the election is behind us, I wanted to send my sincere thanks to all of you for supporting and believing in us. Our families are a huge part of the Pre-K 4 SA success story.

Over the last eight years, Pre-K 4 SA has benefitted over 450,000 children. We could not have done that without the help of our families. We are humbled by your support and enthusiasm, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to serve even more of San Antonio’s children and families.”

I recently reached out to all of our current and alumni families to thank them for their support during the first eight years of Pre-K 4 SA. I would like to take this time to also thank the campaign, Pre-K 4 SA Board, City Leadership, Early Matters, our District and Community Partners, and most importantly our educators, staff, and the citizens of San Antonio.

Since the inception of Pre-K 4 SA, we have accomplished many milestones for our children and their families, as well as for the entire community. However, there is much more work to be done. We intend to continue working to ensure every young child in San Antonio has access to affordable, high-quality early learning and care. This means continuing to work with our partners in childcare centers, schools, and community programs to build a strong early learning and care infrastructure.

Over the next few years, Pre-K 4 SA will work with partner programs to expand access to high-quality prekindergarten so that every family with a four-year-old has a place to enroll if they choose to. Here’s how we plan to do that.

1. Pre-K 4 SA Education Centers will continue to serve 2,000 children. We will expand eligibility so the program is free, not only for those that qualify based on state guidelines, but also for middle class families with annual earnings up to $65,000.

2. Public Schools will continue to serve 13,500 children who are eligible for free prekindergarten based on state guidelines. Pre-K 4 SA will provide professional learning and grants to support districts in serving an additional 1,500 children in middle class families with annual earnings up to $65,000.

3. Child Development Centers and Private/Parochial Schools will serve up to 5,000 families. Pre-K 4 SA will provide professional learning and grants to help ensure these programs meet national early learning quality standards, too.

4. Finally, Home-Based Providers will serve the remaining four-year-olds, as some families think home is the best place for young children. Supporting young children who are learning in home settings has been a goal of Pre-K 4 SA for some time. When the COVID-19 pandemic caused us to close our centers and develop a remote learning program, we realized we could use this approach to support home-based programs. With the help of our outstanding teaching staff, we have developed a remote learning curriculum and launched our very own Online Resource Center which is available in English and Spanish to the entire community.  Through distance learning, we also offer our parents specialized workshops and children have the option to become part of a virtual class. This new innovative option of home-based distance learning has opened the door to an additional 2,000 children.

In addition to ensuring all 25,000 four-year-olds have access to high-quality prekindergarten, Pre-K 4 SA is committed to improving both quality and access for children younger than four. According to the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University, young children develop 1 million brain synapses every second in the first few years of life. That means the earlier we start supporting young children and their families, the better off they will be and the more likely they will grow into healthy, happy, productive adults. Pre-K 4 SA is ready to do our part to continue creating a bright future for our children, families, and community!

Written by: Sarah Baray, Pre-K 4 SA CEO