LAS VEGAS (KLAS)– From school closures due to the pandemic to limited classroom space, Laura Mercado worried her 4-year-old daughter would fall behind in school.
“It was really a struggle,” said Mercado. “She actually didn’t start any kind of schooling until this year until the program became available to us and it’s really been a godsend.”
Families can now get a head start on early education all thanks to funding through the Nevada Ready! State Pre-K program.
United Way of Southern Nevada President Julian High said they work with the Nevada Department of Education to provide free preschool tuition.
“Since 2018, we’ve educated 2,000 students and that gives us a real baseline where we can evaluate the effectiveness of our centers,” said High. “So far all the news that we have been receiving is good. We’re seeing an increase in reading scores and an increase in cognitive ability.”
Thirty-two schools across Nevada have been selected to receive $5.8 million dollars in scholarship money.
Discovery Gardens Childcare is one of them.
Owner Sheila Kirkpatrick said this gives families access to quality education as well as provides staff with the proper resources to support students.
“We’re hoping this is going to actually provide more spaces for more children and I think the big talk right now is universal pre-K starting at the age of three years old and starting those assessments early and bringing that quality programming for all families,” said Kirkpatrick.
Kelly Penate said the opportunity to send her 5-year-old to preschool sets the pace for lifelong learning.
“I’m a first-time mom and this is my only daughter, so I was getting kind of nervous and skeptical when it was time for her to go to school, the area that we lived in for school was actually already full. So, I found this little school [Discovery Gardens] and you didn’t have to live in the zone area,” said Penate. “She loves it, every time I come to pick her up, she’s like, ‘Mom can I stay?'”
All education centers selected for this grant participate in the quality rating improvement system (QRIS), it’s created by the Nevada Department of Education to improve and sustain early childhood education.
According to the Nevada Ready State Pre-K website, the family income of those who wish to enroll in the program must be below 200 percent of poverty level.
To learn more about the Nevada Ready! State Pre-K program, visit this link.