COLORADO SPRINGS — Choosing the right preschool for a child can be stressful. From private to public schools, there are several options. And now with the Colorado Department of Early Childhood’sdecision to launch its universal preschool program, otherwise known as “UPK” in the fall, parents could feel overwhelmed.
Every family will qualify for 10 free hours of preschool a week starting next fall. But there are still a lot of details that need fine-tuning. Previously, the Department of Early Childhood discussed offering more than 10 hours of free care to certain families who qualified. Those conversations have been put on hold for now.
“In that process with stakeholders we realized quickly that that conversation and those determinations couldn’t be had without the determination for the rate for the students. So that will be coming in November as well as the determination of those additional hours,” said Dawn Odean, UPK director.
You may be wondering how will the 10 hours per week be measured? The state is in the process of fixing a budget that would be used for each student. This budget could vary depending on where students live.
“We’re looking at opportunities for families to choose care in different provider types and across the state and so the rate formula is being developed to consider cost of living and cost of care by region in the state,” said Odean.
As for state preschools, they will have the choice to opt-in or opt-out of the UPK program.
“We’re hoping to get as many providers signed up and onboard for universal preschool so that we can reach that mixed delivery goal so that families fully have choice and are able to choose what works best for their child,” said Odean.
And in the midst of a teacher shortage, the Department of Early Childhood is working on making sure these Pre-K roles are filled.
“We are really working to think about how we can recruit and retain our best and our brightest in our early childhood classrooms,” said Odean.
We spoke with a private preschool today who has wondered if there was a curriculum tied to the UPK program.
The answer is no, as of right now. However, the state plans to discuss if there will be requirements on what each preschool needs to provide to participate in the UPK program. The Department of Early Childhood plans to meet with local schools next month.
The application to apply for the free preschool hours will go live in January.
For more information on the UPK Program, visit here.
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