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Virtual Pre-K becoming an option for Kentucky families

Parents are struggling with decisions this fall, including teaching the youngest family learners.
Published: Oct. 9, 2020 at 1:42 PM EDT
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KENTUCKY (WKYT) - Parents are struggling with questions this fall - do you send kids back to school, or do you continue to help them learn virtually? What do you do with the youngest learners?

Is it possible to teach prekindergarten online? There’s a new school in Kentucky trying it out.

A non-profit started a pilot program in Central Kentucky this year, called Waterford UPSTART, to help pre-K students learn. They do all learning virtually.

“From the ages of 1 to 5 the brain will grow 90%, and so a four-year-old is really, really ready to learn. And so in that year before kindergarten, this is a perfect time to get them on the road to literacy,” noted Kim Fischer with Waterford. “When we first started Waterford UPSTART we were looking to help children that didn’t have access to any kind of formal brick and mortar pre-K, whether it was rural, whether it was inner-city families that maybe didn’t have transportation or the ability to take their child to pre-K and so that’s what we were looking to do was help those children that didn’t have an option. Well, now that’s turning out to be the case for children across the nation with COVID.”

Waterford UPSTART is working with 200 kids in Kentucky this school year.

“There is potential for children to learn virtually, but it has to be done in a developmentally appropriate way,” says Dr. Dana Bush.

Dr. Bush specializes in early learning development at Eastern Kentucky University.

“Children are captivated by technology, and by screens, so they may actually sit in front of that screen a little longer, but we have to be very very careful because we know a lot of screen time with children is not the best,” Dr. Bush said.

Bush says if pre-K parents choose an all-virtual route, they need to make sure their kids are still getting exercise each day, and that the parents are talking with the students about their virtual studies.

“There are so many things that children can learn at home virtually by loading the dishwasher, doing things like that, setting the table. There’s math and science and so many things at home that let’s see it as an opportunity to engage and learn a little bit more about each other,” Bush notes.

Waterford UPSTART is free to families.

While classes are full this school year, the organization’s leaders are hopeful they’ll be able to secure funding from philanthropic partners and the state to continue into the next school year.

Organizers also say their program is not meant to replace brick and mortar pre-K programs, it is a supplemental program.

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