$99K per classroom to create virtual pre-K option in Meck County

$99K per classroom to create virtual pre-K option in Meck County

CHARLOTTE — Moving Pre-K students to virtual learning doesn’t come cheap and Tuesday night, Mecklenburg County leaders talked about what it would take to move the programs totally online.

Officials said it would cost $99,663 for each classroom to create a virtual Pre-K option.

The cost was part of the reason commissioners did not vote on it at the meeting Tuesday night.

Content Continues Below

They also wanted to know if Smart Start of Mecklenburg County could offer a program that is valuable and rigorous.

“I’m concerned about businesses coming in with an idea of making money off the backs of my children,” Commissioner Vilma Leake from District 2 said. “So how much research have you done to prove that it’s successful?”

“In reference to quality, all of our Meck Pre-K centers and locations are placed in four- and five-star facilities, so that is the requirement,” Trinisha Dean, Meck Pre-K Director said.

According to a survey, 75% of pre-K centers that responded didn’t meet the requirements for a virtual program or didn’t want one.

Reasons included a preference for in-person instruction and the challenge to make sure that caregivers at home had time to help these students.

“We haven’t talked much about the children,” Pat Cotham, commissioner at-large said. “I know from learning a lot about pre-K over the years and visiting many of the centers that it are in pre-K where it’s often the teachers who are the first ones to identify some kind of a learning disability or a learning struggle for the little child. That’s identified by an interaction between a skilled teacher, her supervisor and a child, and that doesn’t happen if it’s virtual.”

Smart Start officials said, if needed, it could have a virtual program to go with its in-person instruction.

MECK Pre-K reopens with in-person learning for new school year

The company also agreed the costs are too high and demand for the program is too low.

Tuesday night’s presentation also revealed the current enrollment for Pre-K in North Carolina is only 44% and there are thousands of slots left to fill.

Other Pre-K programs in the county are running virtually. They include Bright Beginnings program, which helps more than 3,200 4-year-old students and NC Pre-K, which is a state-run program.