BTW – What is VPK?
If you are new on the whole childhood scene, you may not understand all the talk about Florida VPK. Here’s some background on the origin of Florida’s free VPK program, how to enroll a child, and what you can expect from the Ministry Village Early Learning Center’s VPK Program.
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 Suskind, 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 2019-2020 VPK year, a child must be 4 by September 1, 2019.) 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 through the State of Florida’s Office of Early Learning Family Portal . Proof of age and residency are required. Acceptable documentation includes:
BIRTH: 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;
RESIDENCY: Current utility bill, current pay stub, current property tax, military orders, rental lease with leasor and leasee 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 2019-2020 VPK School Year. “This will be our first VPK school year, and we’ve been preparing and looking forward to it since we opened the doors in November 2018,” said Mrs. Kristi.
The Ministry Village ELC utilizes the Creative Curriculum®, and each of their 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 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. Care at the daily fee ($25/day) is also available 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, academic education as well as Christ-centered care that will benefit their emotional and spiritual needs for years to come.”
🍎The Ministry Village ELC’s first VPK classes will begin in August 2019, and VPK is free for Florida residents! For more information on VPK and how to qualify, visit the Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County.
🏫We have current openings in our program for ages 2, 3 and 4! Call us today at (850) 378-8044 to learn more!
💻Visit our website at MinistryVillageELC.org for more information including rates and curriculum, and call us for a tour at (850) 378-8044. We’d love to meet you and your little ones!
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Ministry Village Early Learning Center
1724 E. Olive Road, Pensacola, FL 32514