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KC Pre-K Cooperative to serve more students in new school year

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Posted at 9:02 AM, Aug 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-24 10:02:22-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A group of agencies providing free pre-kindergarten courses added more capacity this school year. The KC Pre-K Cooperative will now serve close to 500 students, nearly double last year’s number.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) funds a certain percentage of pre-K courses for public and charter schools. Children must be eligible for free or reduced lunch to participate in the free pre-K program. In the Kansas City, Missouri, area, schools contract the KC Pre-K Cooperative to run the pre-K programs.

Emmanuel Family and Child Development Center, Operation Breakthrough, Early Start, Upper Room and Della Lamb Community Services are cooperative members. SchoolSmartKC helped create the cooperative in 2018 and continues to help manage it.

KSHB 41 News visited Operation Breakthrough which added a fifth pre-K classroom this week, compared to four it offered last year.

“It [pre-K] really sets the building blocks for success in school,” Operation Breakthrough CEO Mary Esselman explained. “We’re talking about social, emotional development; we’re talking about literacy and language; we’re talking about cognitive development.”

Esselman said about 6% of her pre-K students last school year started pre-K with a mastery of kindergarten readiness skills. By the end of the pre-K school year, 89% of students had reached those readiness benchmarks.

“Without pre-k a lot of children will be behind,” said Deionta Oliver, who dropped her twin boys off for pre-K at Operation Breakthrough this week.

She said she wants her four-year-old boys to grow into smart young men and believes pre-K is the first step.

“Without the basics, you’re going to be at least a year behind. You’ll have to catch up, the [kindergarten] teacher is going to have to worry about you and the other children on another level,” Oliver pointed out.