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Universal pre-K for 3-year-olds underway in Mount Vernon City School District

Universal pre-K for 3-year-olds underway in Mount Vernon City School District

A month after the beginning of the Mount Vernon City School District's universal pre-kindergarten program for 3-year-olds (UPK-3), parents are seeing development in their children's communication and reading skills. Scholars began their pre-K journey at WestCOP Bethel Early Childhood Center, Friendship for Tots, and Our Lady of Victory School.   

PreK students in class at OLV

The universal pre-kindergarten for 3-year-olds program began on November 28, 2022. In October, slots were filled through a 60-person lottery at the Board of Education. The 60 slots were funded through a state pre-K 3 grant, and 30 more students were added to the program using the district’s general funds. The district posted a request for proposal and conducted a competitive bidding process to determine locations.  

“Pre-K 3 will give our families support with quality childcare,” said Gayle White Wallace, Director of Prekindergarten, Gifted and Talented, and Special Projects. “It will also ensure the children get a head start on learning, which will provide a solid foundation for their educational career.”  

Eighteen students are attending the Our Lady of Victory location, and parents are already noticing the development of their children.   

“Just to be able to experience going to school at such a young age is huge,” said Joamni Pena, whose daughter attends the Our Lady of Victory School location. “She would have had to wait until next year to go to school, so the fact that she was able to do it so close to our house has been pretty good. She has been having so much fun at school. She likes it. It’s been amazing. Just the fact that I’m able to drop her off early, she’s with kids her age and engaging so much. A month ago, she wasn’t even talking that much, and now she won’t stop.”  

Students in pre-k class at friendship for Tots

Scholars are getting an opportunity to start their education early, and the district is providing them with a chance at early academic and social-emotional learning to enrich their entire educational journey. Children are getting their first experience with school, and the benefits of this early education will help open more doors for them in the future.   

“I think it's awesome because he was already asking about school, so obviously I thought he was ready,” said Charlene Awani, a parent of a 3-year-old at Our Lady of Victory School. “It’s good that he has a place that is constant and consistent for him to do his learning. Even in the short week that he’s been here, I can already tell that it is helping. He loves it. He actually asks to come to school. I’m glad he’s adapting well to it, and I can tell he’s learning something. I feel that if you're getting this education this early, he is going to be well prepared for kindergarten and first grade.”  

Thirty-six children are attending pre-K at Friendship for Tots. Bishop C. Nathan Edwers leads the program at the Friendship Worship Center, which has several classrooms for pre-K classes. All students are personally greeted every morning as their parents drop them off, and then they walk down the colorful painted hallway, drop their belongings off in their cubbies, and head to class.   

Pre-k students in class at WestCOP Bethel

“First of all, the playing field of the trajectory of education has been leveled,” Edwers said. “Children who have challenges can be identified much earlier than when they go into kindergarten, and a course of corrective action can be planned. It provides us an opportunity to jumpstart our children early. The transformation of these children who come in at ground level – to see them transforming into wonderful human beings – that is exciting."   

WestCOP Bethel Early Childhood Center is the final location where 36 more students are attending. These three pre-K locations open new opportunities for parents and students in the Mount Vernon community. The program will run until the end of the regular school year, and students enrolled in the pre-K 3 program will automatically be registered for pre-K 4.  

“UPK-3 was much needed in the community, and, as a partner, we saw the need especially in this sector of Mount Vernon,” said Janette Gonzales, Director of Early Childhood Programs at WestCOP Bethel. “All the parents were so eager and excited to hear about the opening for UPK-3. We are getting a lot of information, and the children thrive and start getting ready by having that much-needed social experience with each other. It also helps them prepare as they go into UPK-4 and then into kindergarten. So, the transition will be much easier. They benefit from our program because we offer comprehensive services – nutrition, health, mental health, and education.”     

PreK class at Friendship for Tots
Dr. Pearce and Dr. BC

Students, teachers, and community members from countries around the world filled the cafeteria for Mount Vernon High School’s No Place for Hate - A Walk Around the Globe on Friday, January 20, 2023. The room was lined with flags from around the world, and tables were set up with displays detailing the cultures of each country. There was an assortment of food from several countries as well.  

Students in Pre-K playing games at House of Sports

Universal Prekindergarten students in the Mount Vernon City School District are currently learning about health and nutrition. To support the learning in this unit, pre-K students from across the district took a trip to House of Sports.

Kids petting rabbit

Traphagen scholars took an in-house field trip that featured a tortoise, ferret, and albino rabbit. Students were allowed to touch all the animals and see them up close. Nick Coon, a naturalist educator at Greenburgh Nature Center, brought his scaly and furry friends to Traphagen School on Tuesday, January 10, 2023, for the field trip.

Pre-K students arriving to school

A month after the beginning of the Mount Vernon City School District's universal pre-kindergarten program for 3-year-olds (UPK-3), parents are seeing development in their children's communication and reading skills. Scholars began their pre-K journey at WestCOP Bethel Early Childhood Center, Friendship for Tots, and Our Lady of Victory School.   

Firefighter gathers pre-k students for a picture.

Pre-kindergarten students toured Mount Vernon to see all the community helpers throughout the month of December. The “hop on, hop off” bus tour visited the fire and police departments, grocery store, library, post office, Board of Education office, City Hall and more.