Meeting Vermont’s Universal Pre-K Law

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In 2014, Act 166 was signed into law in Vermont.  It’s the state’s Universal Pre-K program, offering 10 hours of publicly funded education for 3, 4, and 5 year olds.  The law came into full effect this year, and some groups have had to create a brand new program.

“I don’t know if anybody is really prepared to do it, but at the same time as a community, we knew that Montpelier was really looking for other options,” said Union Elementary School Principal Chris Hennessey.  He’s excited to have a new group of students in the building this year.  In accordance with Vermont’s Universal Pre-K program, the Montpelier Public School District had to create something new from the ground up.  “For us, in addition to providing that financial support for families, it’s a real boom to the schools to have a chance to work directly with as many kids in the community to provide a bridge for them coming into Kindergarten,” he added.

In just a few short months over the summer, Hennessey and his staff hired new teachers, remodeled a classroom, and created a new curriculum.

Superintendent Brian Ricca says it’s another option for the community.  He says it was a costly undertaking, but the benefits far outweigh that cost.  “To be able to have students in our building, in this building where they will ultimately be spending the next four, five years, then off to Main Street Middle School, and then Montpelier High School, knowing the community supported that, there is a dollar amount we put in there, but it doesn’t compare to the value we’re getting in terms of educational outcomes,” said Dr. Ricca.

“Each day we build a little on the routines, the rituals, they’re learning the structure of the day.  They’re building their little social circles,” stated Brenda Bolio.  She’s a Special Educator for Montpelier’s Early Education Program.  She’s one of six heading up the Pre-K Program.  As of now, there are two sessions per day, Monday through Friday.  Each averaging about 13 students per day.  “I’ve always found this fascinating because the kiddos are really just gaining skills.  So it’s beautiful to see when they have that ‘aha’ moment, or when something comes together for them,” added Bolio.

Despite being only 2 months in, the trio call the new Pre-K Program a success.  “For me very personally and professionally, this is really a dream come true.  It’s something I’ve aspired to as Superintendent,” stated Ricca.  “Everyday is a joy, the energy they bring in.  We’re tired at the end of the day, but the energy they bring in, that’s what supports you, that’s what keeps you going,” joked Bolio.

Union Elementary does still have some openings for their Pre-K Program.  You can find more information at the link.

Plus more information on Universal Pre-K in Vermont.

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