BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — “Our families struggled during COVID and some of our youngest families are the families that have kids in Universal Pre-K,” reflected Sabatino Cimato, superintendent, Kenmore Tonawanda School District.
Many school families are turning to full-day Universal Pre-K (UPK) as a daycare solution.
The COVID pandemic pushed families to the limits when it came to caring for young children.
The KenTon School District and Alden Central School District are both expanding UPK programs that will begin September 1.
The Kenmore Tonawanda School District is seeing an enrollment boom for its universal pre-k programs as it expands for the new school year to offer a full-day.
The district is reopening the once shuttered Hamilton School building in the Town of Tonawanda for the expansion.
KenTon School District photos show how the school was used for storage.
But Superintendent Cimato tells me in just a matter of two months it has been transformed back into a school ready for young learners.
The district is teaming with the YMCA to offer families on option of full day pre-k.
“Parents are working — families are working and to be able to have that as an option of support — we really it as a win-win for everybody — for our district — especially for our children,” replied Cimato.
The gym has been totally refurbished at the Hamilton School, ready for young children to play.
Mike Muscarella is director of KenTon's Elementary Education. He says offering universal pre-k fosters development and growth at an early age.
“To be able to play — to be able to start to learn their letters and their numbers to be in a structured environment,” Muscarella noted.
The Hamilton School is expected to house up to 240 pre-k students this fall, plus, the district offers half-day programs at two other buildings.
KenTon’s director of data and accountability, Frank Spagnolo, says during COVID the district lost a significant number of families who decided to home school their young children, but now families are ready to send their children a full day.
“And really the full day option does lend itself to provide families with some of the before and after school day care that wasn't necessarily provided in a half-day program option,” responded Spagnolo.
In the Alden Central School District they're also preparing to offer Universal Pre-K full day for the first time.
“We knew it was going to be a growing opportunity for us and when we — surveyed our families and they said — we would be interested in full day and we'd love for your to explore it,” explained Sharon Hance, director of student & staff learning, Alden Central Schools.
The district has also prepared the Alden Primary School on Broadway for full-day Universal Pre-K
61 young students are enrolled to begin the program September 1.
“Families are looking for a a spot for their little ones to connect socially with other little ones and begin the learning process in a structured environment that's safe,” Hance said.
Hance tells me families are eager to have their young children be able to have a social learning component.
“To run full days is kind of a big deal and so that gives our UPK providers to go a little deeper with a few things,” Hance remarked.
Hance says this Alden classroom will be a “happy and busy” place next week.
Both the Alden and KenTon educators say expanding UPK to a full day is a tremendous growing “opportunity” for students and families, especially after one of the most challenging school years in modern times.
“The biggest hardship is on the kids — let's face it — it's on the kids,” declared Cimato.