Belen Schools begins free PreK program

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The Belen Consolidated Schools is preparing 4-year-old children for their first year of school through a free PreK Program, which uses playtime as a tool to help children learn core material from New Mexico's PreK curriculum.

"If you think about our community, for kids who don't qualify for the needy preschool or don't qualify for Head Start, they are in the hands of day care," said BCS' Special Education Director Diane Vallejos at the Board of Education meeting earlier this month.

Applications for the program are due July 1. Participants will be randomly chosen through a lottery system to fill the 40 available slots. If a child isn't chosen in the first round, he or she will be placed on a waiting list until a slot opens.

"We're just excited to offer this program, because if children don't qualify for Head Start or our (developmentally delayed) preschool, they still have somewhere to go," Vallejos said in an interview after the meeting.

The program, based out of Rio Grande Elementary School, will begin Aug. 17. To be eligible for the program, children must either be 4 years old or turn 5 after Sept. 1.

"Basically, they can't be eligible for kindergarten," she said.

The program, funded by a $120,000 grant from the New Mexico Public Education Department, will provide children with a certified teacher and educational assistant for 150 instructional days. It is modeled after Shining Stars Preschool in Rio Rancho, a top preschool in the state, Vallejos said.

Instructional days will span three hours a day for four or five days a week. School supplies and lunch or breakfast, depending on which session a child attends, will be provided. Parents must provide transportation to the school at 15 Eastside School Road in Belen.

Applications are available from the BCS' website at www.beleneagles.org or from any Belen elementary school.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.