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School districts working to catch up pre-K, kindergarten students following pandemic

Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 2:31 PM CDT
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - School districts across East Texas are expecting a surge of kindergarteners and Pre-K students this fall.

In Nacogdoches teachers are already playing ‘catch up’ with some little ones who stayed home during the pandemic.

Pre-K and kindergarteners at Nettie Marshall Elementary are learning how to read. The six-week summer program is designed to prepare the bilingual students for fall instruction.

“We are aware a lot of those students did not have the opportunity to attend pre-k,” said Dr. Evelyn Sauceda, Director of Bilingual at NISD. “The background knowledge that attended pre-k last year is not going to be the same for students that stayed at home.”

The National Institute for Early Education reports pre-school participation nationwide fell from 71 percent before the pandemic to 54 percent during the pandemic.

Head Start Director Weldon Beard saw enrollment drops across 12 East Texas counties. By August, he said he knows student enrollment will max out.

“So we’re seeing things go back to what we call ‘pre-COVID numbers’. We’re excited about that but also anticipating how to navigate the new world of post-COVID,” said Beard.

Also, Health and Human Services awarded Head Starts nationwide $1 billion dollars. The money is intended to build back fully operational, in-person services. And perhaps attract teachers.

“Because as people enter back into the workforce what will become a livable wage has changed and to pay those employees that livable wage they’re looking for now,” said Beard.

Parents can opt out of Pre-K, but in Texas kindergarten is mandatory.

Fortunately, four- and five-year-olds are unaware of the grown-up decisions it takes to get children school-ready.

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