Florida VPK at Ministry Village
If you have kids in your life, you probably already know that the State of Florida offers free Voluntary PreKindergarten (VPK) to residents. The Ministry Village Early Learning Center is an approved VPK Provider through the state’s program. Learn more about sending your child to VPK and what the Ministry Village ELC program offers.
What is Florida VPK?
As research into early learning and child development gained attention in the early 2000s, it became evident that many preschool children were not ready for kindergarten. They didn’t know their colors. Their social and developmental skills were lacking. Reading even the simplest words was a foreign concept. Further research revealed that there was also a disparity in the children who were prepared. The children whose families could afford to enroll in a high-quality, education-based preschool program excelled in kindergarten, elementary school and beyond. Those kids whose families could not afford to enroll in a quality preschool often struggled with their education for many years.
Recent research has revealed some of the reasons behind the initial preschool struggle. Children who are read to and talked with, starting at birth, are exposed to many more words at a time when their brains are growing rapidly – thirty million more words to be exact. According to Professor Dana Suskin, MD, the founder and director of the Thirty Million Words Initiative, children from lower income homes hear 30 million fewer words between birth and age 3 than higher income homes. And that means 30 million fewer chances to help the preschooler’s brain develop. Educators have been looking for a way to provide quality school opportunities to children throughout the country, and Florida’s program has led the way.
In 2005, Governor Jeb Bush signed a law creating the Florida Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) program that would prepare four year olds for kindergarten. Through Florida VPK, a parent can choose to enroll a child into the free program, and help build a foundation that will lead to educational success. Throughout the state of Florida, there are public, private and faith-based providers who accept the Florida VPK vouchers and must meet minimum standards required by law. The children are evaluated and the readiness scores of VPK centers are made publicly available to parents.
How Does VPK Work?
To be eligible for free Florida VPK, a child must live in the state of Florida while attending VPK and be 4 years of age on September 1 of the school year. (So for the upcoming 2020-2021 VPK year, a child must be 4 by September 1, 2020.) To register for VPK, parents contact the Early Learning Coalition in the county where their preferred VPK Provider is located. In Escambia County, parents apply through the Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County and can apply online at https://familyservices.floridaearlylearning.com/. Proof of age and residency are required. Acceptable documentation includes:
Child’s birth certificate, Florida immunization record signed by a doctor or nurse, US Passport, valid child’s military ID, certified copy of child’s Certificate of Baptism, or life insurance for the child within 2 years;
Current utility bill, current pay stub, current property tax, military orders, rental lease with leasor and lease signatures, valid Florida ID with current residency. Residency documents must be in a parent’s name. If the parent does not have documentation in their name, they can contact the Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County for alternative documentation options.
Once the VPK Application has been approved by the Early Learning Coalition, parents will receive an email and the child’s printable VPK Eligibility Certificate. That certificate can be taken to the VPK Program Provider of choice.
What about VPK at Ministry Village?
Mrs. Kristi Zagar, the Director of the Ministry Village Early Learning Center, is excited about the 2020-2021 VPK School Year. “Last year was our first VPK school year, and while the Coronavirus Pandemic caused a lot of uncertainty and change, it helped us focus our health and safety protocols, and now we have a system in place that we know works well. We hope and pray that the upcoming school year is more ‘normal’, but we are staying in close contact with the local and state health departments and preparing to follow the guidelines that are set,” said Mrs. Kristi.
The Ministry Village ELC utilizes the Creative Curriculum®, and each of the learning objectives aligns with Florida’s early learning educational standards for early childcare and education. VPK kids actively participate in early education STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities, as well as daily Bible stories, art, structured and free-play time. The weekly lesson plans are purposefully and intentionally planned to meet the needs of each child and families are provided with extension activities and ideas to use at home to support the learning and concepts their child engages in at the ELC.
At the Ministry Village Early Learning Center, the VPK Program follows the Escambia County School District Calendar. Check-in for the school day begins at 8:45 AM, instruction time begins promptly at 9 AM in each classroom, and the VPK school day ends at 1 PM. The only requirement to participate in the Ministry Village ELC VPK Program is a Certificate of Eligibility from the Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County. There is no cost for the hours of instruction and care that fall under the Florida VPK Program, and students registering only for the free VPK program with a Certificate of Eligibility are not charged registration or supply fees.
If a family needs childcare beyond the regular VPK school day, a child can enroll in Wrap-Around VPK Care which provides care from the end of the VPK instruction time until 6 PM. The ELC also works with any family to provide care for any VPK student needing to attend on a VPK holiday when the ELC is otherwise operating (like spring break week).
“VPK provides a wonderful opportunity for children to start their educational years off with a firm foundation,” said Mrs. Kristi. “We at the Ministry Village ELC are excited to provide our community with high-quality, Christ-centered care.”
🍎 The 2020-2021 Ministry Village Early Learning Center VPK School Year will begin on August 10,2020 and continue through May 21, 2021.
⏰ Enroll now! The Ministry Village ELC is currently accepting enrollment for the 2020-2021 VPK school year, and spaces are available! Once you receive your child’s Certificate of Eligibility, call us at (850) 378-8044 and schedule a time to register and take a tour! We’d love to meet you!
💻 For more information on the Ministry Village Early Learning Center, visit our website at MinistryVillageELC.org.
Ministry Village Early Learning Center
1724 E. Olive Road, Pensacola, FL 32514