NewsCovering Colorado


Universal preschool registration opens, local daycares and UCCS weigh in

bradford preschool
Posted at 6:22 PM, Jan 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-17 21:07:59-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — Registration for universal pre-k in Colorado opened today. The registration comes during a time when many daycares and schools have been seeing shortages of teachers in recent years.

Those who spoke with News5 said, today is a big day and critical step forward for early childhood education. However, some daycares are still dealing with teacher shortages. Meanwhile, UCCS is offering expanded opportunities to fill the need.

“The last time that you were here, we had closed classrooms because we didn't have enough teaching staff,” said Liz Denson.

Denson is the CEO and president of Early Connections Learning Centers. She said pre-k teacher shortages have been felt nationwide and locally, but trends have improved. About six months ago, nearly a dozen positions were open at Early Connections Learning Center, and now it’s down to four.

“We’re in somewhat of an okay place at the moment, but that's a definite reflection on the programs and the work that we've done over the last handful of years to prepare for that,” said Denson.

She credits work done by local partners and a program called “Earn to Learn". The program gets more students working at entry-level jobs in early childcare while they get paid and continue to go to school. Since launching the program, 100% of the students enrolled have finished the program.

She says now though, there are still many unanswered questions about the universal pre-k program.

“I think that concern is going to remain of having enough teachers, and having enough classrooms open and having that available space. So much is still up in the air even though the application launched today,” said Denson.

UCCS has also been working to ensure they fill the workforce need as the UPK program rolls out next summer.

Dr. Lissanna Follari works in the college of education. She says the campus has recently expanded programs for early childhood education.

“We’ve spent years preparing new programs, new pathways and bridges to leap over the barriers that have been plaguing our field in terms of bringing in our most highly qualified teachers into our early childhood classrooms,” said Dr. Follari.

Dr. Follari says they also work closely with local school districts to inform others about available opportunities at the University. She added that outreach efforts are a key part in recruiting and retaining aspiring teachers.

“We knew that there were communities across the state, certainly in our region, but across the state that had a barrier of access to teacher preparation. So we needed to create opportunities that would reach every corner of the state,” said Dr. Follari.

Dr. Follari says one of their biggest questions is knowing how to continue to fund early childhood programs on their campus.

Meanwhile Denson said today is a win in early childhood education, but as the UPK program rolls out, the bigger challenge will be in rural communities.

“When it comes to more rural areas, that's where you're really going to experience some of those teacher shortages, not having qualified staff in place, not having facilities in place to provide the services that UPK is asking that those areas provide,” said Denson.

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