Many parents of Pre-K students are weighing their options for how to get the best and safest education for their kids.
One parent, Karen Douglas, has chosen to keep her 4-year-old son home for the beginning of the school year.
“They need the structure, they need the education, but then am I putting his life at risk? Am I putting my mother’s life at risk if he brings something home,” Douglas said.
Douglas says her decision is based on the well-being of her family, including her mother that lives with her. Many parents across South Florida are weighing a similar decision.
Voluntary Pre-K is free for all 4 and 5-year-old children, but enrollment in the program has seen a decline this year compared to last.
According to the Early Learning Coalition of Broward County, there were roughly 2500 fewer approved VPK applications this year compared to last year.
Miami-Dade County saw roughly 3,400 fewer approved applications this year, according to the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade and Monroe.
But parents are still waiting for the roll out of countywide virtual VPK options.
The Early Learning Coalitions representing both counties say a virtual option will be available soon.
According to a representative with the ELC of Broward County, “The virtual VPK option, which should be finalized within weeks, will be available online for families. Families will have the ability to choose virtual VPK classes from either a public school site or a private provider of VPK.”
VPK students in Miami-Dade will have access to a “Flex” VPK option. According to a representative with the ELC of Miami-Dade and Monroe, “The Public Schools have both a virtual option and a traditional on-site option for parents to choose. Private programs can also provide the same two options.”
In the meantime, some childcare providers are getting creative.
“All the curriculum is already online and she can do it at her own pace, it has worksheets, videos, the theme of the week,” Ana Gil said.
Gil is the owner of Pacesetter Academy in Miramar. She launched an online portal with free resources that mimic the school’s VPK program.
“You have all of these websites that are coming out and charging parents, charging people and I said okay, we have a full curriculum here...let’s put our curriculum out there for everyone who doesn’t have access,” Gil said.
She says it’s not meant to replace in person Pre-K, but she hopes it helps to bridge the gap for parents waiting for schools to reopen.