Colorado early learning centers navigate universal pre-K rollout


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DENVER – Colorado’s universal pre-K program went live Tuesday. Early learning centers are working to accommodate parents while navigating the new law.

One such early learning center is Mile High Early Learning.

“I’ve been kind of on this journey now for several months for Mile High Early Learning and ensuring that as an organization and as a potential, and now actual, provider of UPK, that we have been steadily working alongside the state,” said Erin Burge, chief learning officer. “We’ve been notifying our families about the program, telling them about the funding and how that could benefit both their child and their family, and working with them through that process to ensure that they know that they can get registered, and they can choose Mile High as their first choice.”

Burge said their learning center is also putting in plans to welcome new families.

“We do recruit a lot of families from the community, a lot of families by word of mouth. And so, we certainly hope that UPK will just be a part of our recruitment process as we begin to move forward with UPK and the rollout of ’23, ’24,” she said. “I think what we just want people to know is the importance of preschool and UPK supports the initiative in really ensuring that students can receive an education in early care and learning centers. And we know that supports the foundational setting of not only education, but social, emotional, and life skills, as well. So, we’re excited to begin to roll this out.”

During Governor Jared Polis’s State of the State address, he pointed out Shar Portillo as one of the first parents to sign-up for universal pre-K in the state.

“The accessibility and equity are so nice for all Coloradans. From a family standpoint, I’m a teacher myself, and my job has been kind of a hobby since having kids. My whole paycheck goes to paying for childcare. So, this coming fall, I’ll have a full day kindergartener and then my youngest will be going into UPK. And I’ll get to use my paycheck for bills and savings,” Portillo said.

Portillo said the benefits of universal pre-K for her family will be huge, but thinks the entire education system will benefit greatly.

“Kindergarten teachers, you know, they’re going to have these kids come in, and they’re going to be ready for kindergarten. all on the same level. You’re not going to have some kids that went to preschool and some that have never had any exposure to school,” she said.

Portillo believes universal pre-K will give kids the best possible start in life.

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