Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) was a half-day day program at Saint Cloud High that had the goal of kindergarten readiness for kids getting ready to go to elementary school. In Florida, VPK is free, and our school was lucky enough to have its very own in building eight with a full-time teacher who supervised it. That was until this school year, when news broke that the program would be ending.
Our VPK program allowed students in the Early Childhood program to become proficient in the principles of child development and learning environments. This course also offered students the opportunity to leave with a national Child Development Associate (CDA) credential.
Additionally, the VPK program allowed students to form friendships and wonderful memories with the kids they worked with. The little ones would always jump up with joy every day to see their best friends.
Mr. Nate Fancher, the wonderful principal of Saint Cloud High said, "I can’t think of any negative effects of having a Pre-K on this campus. The positive was that it was able to support our Early Childhood program." (Audio of full interview at the bottom of page)
Staff members also benefitted from this program since they could bring their four-year-old to their job while simultaneously putting them in safe environment. Now they are forced to leave them elsewhere with a greater sense of concern as they work.
Ms. Tomie Troxell, one of our Early Childhood teachers reflected: "Oh how did I feel? It's detrimental, honestly, to the program because these students do not get the hands-on practice that they need from the age that we’re working with to get their certifications.
"I’m having to send them over to Michigan Avenue which is super awful because I can’t see how they’re teaching and I can’t see their lesson planning executed. Before, they would plan their lesson and teach it to the pre-k so they were modeling and doing all of the things that a teacher would do to gain that practical skill."
Although the kids were sent across the street to Michigan Avenue Elementary, the Early Childhood students have been permitted to observe the teachers there. If it was not for their kindness, though, the program would have shut down permanently.
Much love and money were invested in the program over the years as the children became part of the Saint Cloud High community. Ms. Troxell continued: "They were talking about removing the playground, and if they remove that we’re completely done. And if they give that to another school, we’re not having this program anymore. That’s $60,000 just on the toys and playground. And Mr. Fancher? He gave us this building and he has been so supportive that he bought materials for our classrooms. Then a truck came and took the materials he personally bought." (Audio of full interview at the bottom of page)
Students currently in the Early Childhood program, and those to come in the future, would have benefited immensely from this amazing VPK program Saint Cloud High was so privileged to have. The program helped students discover something unknown to them up to that point: the ability to watch little kids spread their wings and, in turn, have happiness in their own lives. The students were learning as much as the kids were learning from them. Yet, unfortunately, that opportunity is no longer here.
Mr. Fancher full interview audio:
Ms. Troxell full interview audio: