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Students make first splash in education (video)

By Carolina Astrain
Aug. 22, 2013 at 3:22 a.m.
Updated Aug. 23, 2013 at 3:23 a.m.

Prekindergarten teacher Nikki Moeller has her heart checked by her new student, Genesis Reyes, 4, as they play during Minnow Camp, a prekindergarten orientation program at Hopkins Elementary School. "It's gonna be a whole new year, and there is so much to look forward to," Moeller said about her class, which starts with the rest of VISD on Monday.

Little plastic fish splashed around in the air over waves of smiles and laughter from the incoming pre-K students.

After teacher Nikki Moeller thought she had given all her students a fish puppet, 4-year-old Michael Ortiz stuck his hand in the air.

"I didn't get one," he shouted from the crowd of giddy students. "I'm in your class, too."

Moeller smiled and handed Michael a bright green clown fish.

Students and their families were invited to their pre-K campuses Thursday evening for an exclusive classroom and teacher preview.

Minnow Camp, a weeklong orientation program to prepare pre-K students and their families for the incoming year, is new to the Victoria school district.

For the past few years, VISD campuses across the district have had a "sneak peak" day when students from all grade levels can go and check out their campus before the first day.

But because of a strengthened focused on pre-K this year, Superintendent Robert Jaklich suggested having a time and day completely devoted to the district's youngest students.

VISD spent about $48,300 on stipends and instructional materials for a week's worth of teacher training on the district's new pre-K curriculum.

As of Thursday evening, Jaklich said most of VISD's 29 pre-K classrooms are at capacity with a preliminary enrollment count of 562.

But they're still taking on more students and expecting more to come after the first day of school Monday.

"I don't want to discourage anybody from bringing their child to enroll in pre-K," Jaklich said. "If there is an opportunity, we're absolutely going to do our best to do that."

Last year, on the district's snapshot day, VISD had 748 pre-K students.

On top of the cost of pre-K teacher preparation, the district has spent about $104,400 on their new pre-K curriculum, Development Learning Materials.

To meet the demand for VISD's full-day pre-K, the superintendent said he and his staff have been talking about the possibility of creating an overflow campus at one of the vacant buildings at the old Victoria High School campus.

"We need to take a look at what direction our growth is headed before making any final decisions," Jaklich said.

During the classroom orientation, students interacted with others over puzzles and crafts while parents learned about school rules with campus administrators.

And once those activities ended, teachers helped their students slip into T-shirts with "Class of 2027" printed on the front.

"This has been really great," Amanda Martinez, 27, Michael's mother said. "We've been able to meet his teacher, and he's already started to make friends."



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