Pre-K students get an early taste of school before first day

Kimbree Herrera twiddled a bright pink fish toy with her fingers.

Her wide eyes searched for her mother, Destiny Herrera, in the crowd of parents at Rowland Elementary School for its second annual Minnow Camp.

"I'm excited to learn my ABCs," said Kimbree, 4, one of 512 pre-K students registered with the Victoria school district as of Thursday.

"We still have openings," said Tammy Sestak, VISD director of federal programs, who encourages eligible pre-K parents to register their students before the end of the first week of school, which began Monday.

The mother listened closely as campus principals and instructional coaches led parents through orientation as students became acquainted with their classroom.

Rowland Elementary School principal Tammy Garza was appointed to her position over the summer after former principal Andreia Foster resigned.

Pre-K has the lowest attendance of any grade level in VISD, said Garza, who also emphasized the important of parents getting their children to class each school day.

"Our attendance goal is 98 percent," Garza said.

During the 2012-13 school year, Rowland had a 96.3 percent attendance rate campuswide, according to the state's accountability reports.

Herrera's other children, first-grader Makayla Herrera, 6, and 2-year-old Aiden Herrera, were seated quietly next to her. Aiden played a portable video game with headphones plugged in.

"She needs to not talk and pay attention," said Makayla, Kimbree's older sister. "And don't get a red or yellow - red is the baddest."

Kimbree's teacher, Diane Woods, decorated her classroom using a tropical theme.

As parents and students said their goodbyes, Woods helped a student place his school supplies into a crate.

The young student wore a T-shirt with "Class of 2028" printed on front.

"Oh, you look so handsome," Woods said. "I got your picture right here."

This is Woods' third year teaching pre-K and 19th year with the Victoria school district.

Last year, pre-K classrooms in Victoria ISD made a switch to a new curriculum - a change Woods said she continues to welcome.

"It lends itself to letting you fit a wider range of stories that you can just plug into it," Woods said. "It's going to be an awesome year."

Herrera, 27, said she's confident that her daughter Kimbree will succeed in her first year of pre-K.

"They did really good work with her at Head Start," Herrera said. "This is not her first rodeo."



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