The Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program (VPK) is a free prekindergarten program for children aged four and five years old who are Florida residents. Participants must be four years of age on or before September 1 and can be enrolled that year or wait until the following year. There is no registration fee.
That age group was chosen because the most important development and growth in the brain happens by the age of five. The early years are when a child has the ability to be attentive and to follow directions. Structured early learning fosters these abilities and a love of learning for later success in school and in life.
VPK Tampa gives children a jump start by providing qualified teachers who will be enhancing the students’ pre-reading, writing, language, pre-math, crafts, developmentally appropriate curricula, and social skills. That promotes critical thinking, self-discipline, decision-making, respect for others, better language skills, ability to score better in school readiness tests, and have fewer behavioral problems. VPK students have shown that they also score high on state tests and perform ahead of their peers in later elementary school programs.
VPK Tampa includes the Tampa Bay Christian Academy that is an excellent example of this type of educational alternative to traditional childcare. The curriculum employs hands-on activities and develops the skills of this age group by staff members who are experienced, friendly, creative, and love this type of teaching that prepares students to start kindergarten. Class sizes are kept small with the ratio of one instructor for every 11 children. The class size cannot exceed 20 children in the school-year program and not exceed 12 children in the summer program. The school also provides Special Needs programs and teachers for those who have disabilities.
There are a number of public school providers, private child care facilities, faith-based child care centers, and licensed family child care homes that offer this special VPK program. The school-year program begins in August and includes 540 hours of instructional time, and a summer program can begin as early as May 1 and consists of 300 instructional hours.