Larissa Loveless

PISD spokesperson Larissa Loveless

To improve school readiness for all students, the Palestine Independent School District will offer preschool to families of all income levels, starting in the 2019-2020 school year. The free program will apply to all children 4 years old on, or before, Sept. 1, 2019.

Up to now, PISD limited pre-kindergarten classes to 4-year-olds from low-income families.

Texas only provides funds for children of low-income families to attend pre-K; therefore, PISD will use its own funds to expand the program.

The district encourages parents to attend a registration session, 5:30-6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 11, at the Washington Early Childhood Center, 1020 W. Hamlet Street.

School leaders put on an informational meeting at Northside Elementary in March. Thursday's registration session, however, is even more important, as the district plans for staff, supplies, and services for students.

Parents should bring birth certificates, current immunization records, 2018 tax returns, social security cards of parents and children, a driver’s license or identification card, insurance documents, court documents, and proof of residency, such as a water or electric bill with a physical address.

School personnel will help make copies of documents and translate information. The district will provide a light dinner of hot dogs and chips.

PISD spokesperson Larissa Loveless said expanding preschool will improve student achievement.

“The district has seen gaps in performance among our students,” Loveless said. “We're being proactive in overcoming them.”

Students who attend pre-K benefit from the state curriculum and early interaction with their peers. Children who have been raised at home with little or no instruction often struggle to catch up to their peers who have attended preschool.

Studies show that preschool helps improve children's vocabulary development, social skills, and emotional growth.

Many parents also will lower their daycare costs, which typically run $500 or more per month. For some families with more than one pre-kindergarten child, the cost of daycare or private-pay preschool is prohibitive. With an expanded pre-K program, some parents can join or return to the workforce.

“This is really something that can change a community,” Loveless said.