NewsCovering Colorado


Program giving rural Colorado families free access to preschool material

Posted at 12:25 PM, Oct 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-27 14:25:06-04

COLORADO — Colorado is getting ready to roll out 10 hours of free universal preschool for all, but some families still face barriers to get their young children education.

Those barriers affect rural and low-income areas, including transportation to and from school and family work schedules. Most school transportation doesn't start taking children to school until kindergarten. Waterford Upstart, a national early learning program, is giving families in Colorado free online preschool materials to close the gap in access to early education. The nonproft has partnered with the Daniel's Fund to give children STEM activities, a free laptop, an online instructor, and internet access if needed.

Kim Fischer, the national spokesperson for Waterford, said parents can practice the material with their child on their own time, creating more flexibility for working families. She said pre-K education is key to make sure children don't have to catch up on learning when they get to kindergarten.

"A lot of people think kindergarten is where a child begins, right, that's where they're going to start the learning process. But what happens that first day of school, when kindergarten starts, is the kindergarten teacher will assess the classroom, and children will be all over the place. So it makes it very difficult for that kindergarten teacher to know who to teach to," said Fischer.

District 11 recently cleared all preschool waitlists this month, making room for 64 children to join a preschool class at Chipeta Elementary School in November. Two more classrooms will open at Audubon Elementary School and King Elementary School when teachers are hired.

Sarah Carlson, the early childhood education director at District 11, said children learn necessary social skills and confidence from preschool and take those skills to kindergarten.

"Our goal in our program is that every student who leaves preschool feels like 'I'm good at school, people care about me at school, I'm ready to take on challenges at school, and I love school.'"

The Waterford Upstart program is available to rural families and those on free and reduced lunch programs who are not already enrolled in pre-K. It will serve 200 families across Colorado and there are around 70 openings still available for families to sign up.

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