iluna@valleytowncrier.com

McALLEN - McAllen ISD announced a tuition-free Universal Pre-K program available now for the 2020-2021 school year.

At a press conference held Monday morning March 2, McAllen ISD Superintendent, Dr. J.A. Gonzalez said it is “the first time in our (McAllen ISD) district’s history, we are providing Universal Pre-K opportunities available for students outside and inside the district that can benefit from the program.”

Universal Pre-K is a program free for all students regardless of eligibility criteria. The state-mandated Pre-K program (traditional Pre-K) has certain eligibility criteria that need to be met for a child to enroll in Pre-K.

These criteria’s include any of the following: the student must be four-years-old by Sept. 1, the student is an English-language learner (unable to speak and comprehend the English language and are Limited English Proficiency (LEP), the family/legal guardian is economically disadvantaged, the child is part of a military family, the child has never been in the conservatorship (foster care) of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).

McAllen ISD is making Universal Pre-K available for families without meeting any requirements and regardless if their child is in the district or zone to any of the following five schools offering the tuition-free program.

“So any family who does not meet the [state’s mandated Pre-K criteria] and was thinking about leaving their children at home one more year or sending their child to a daycare, can now participate in Universal Pre-K,” said Dr. Silvia Ibarra, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services.

The schools offering Universal Pre-K are Castaneda Elementary, Rayburn Elementary, Hendricks Elementary, Bonham Elementary and Fields Elementary with 200 available seats total.

The available seats are on a first-come-first-serve basis and must apply in person at the intended school of enrollment. For families who live outside of the school district, they must submit a Transfer Request Application.

Dr. Ibarra explains the four Pre-K programs McAllen ISD offers and the benefits of enrolling in Pre-K.

“Our state-mandated Pre-K is still in place, in addition to that, we have a partnership with Hidalgo County Headstart for families who would like to participate in that dual-program and can visit our two centers, Navarro Elementary or Roosevelt Elementary. Finally, we have our tuition-based Pre-K and that is for families who do not want to take advantage of the Universal Pre-K because they do not want to attend one of those five campuses.”

Ibarra shared children enrolled in Pre-K develop early literacy skills, social-emotional skills, seamless transition to Kindergarten, higher attendance, better grades and overall, are ahead of their counterparts.

“We believe this is going to be groundbreaking for us as we are on this path to focus on ensuring the students reach their full potential and early literacy,” Dr. Gonzalez said.

Pre-K classes for the 2020-2021 school year begins August 24 and can enroll at https://www.mcallenisd.org/apps/pages/pre-k.

Available Pre-K Programs offered by McAllen ISD:

Traditional State-Mandated Pre-K

Tuition-Free Universal Pre-K

Dual-Program Partnership with Hidalgo County Headstart

Tuition-Based Pre-K