FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
As Thousands of Students Begin VPK in Tampa Bay, Families are Invited to Tweet About it
Pinellas County, Fla. - It is back-to-school season, and soon thousands of the state's youngest students will be starting Florida's Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Education Program, a state-funded education program offered to all 4-year-olds.

To celebrate the start of a new year of VPK, the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County is partnering with early learning coalitions across the state to launch "My First Day of VPK," a statewide social media campaign to welcome children into the program and help parents mark this important milestone in their child's life. VPK programs start on different days throughout Tampa Bay and Florida, so the campaign will begin in August and run through the beginning of September of the 2017-2018 school year.  In Pinellas County, many programs will begin this Thursday, August 10th, but parents will still be able to enroll throughout the remainder of 2017.

Parents can visit   www.floridaearlylearning.com/vpk/my_first_day_of_vpk.aspx to download and print a special flyer for their children to hold for commemorative photos. Then, they can use #1stDayVPK to post the photos on social media. The Office of Early Learning will be sharing #1stDayVPK tagged content on its Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts through early September.   As well as the printable flyer, the web page has tips for parents and children as they prepare for the first day of VPK. There is also a Pinterest board with more resources for children beginning VPK.

VPK builds a strong foundation for school using educational material corresponding to various stages in a child's development. 
According to the Center for Public Education, high-quality prekindergarten programs not only help children with kindergarten readiness, but can also lead to better school performance and higher graduation rates later on. Lindsay Carson, CEO of the Coalition in Pinellas, encourages families to participate in this free program, stressing the importance of its impact on the academic, behavioral, and social benefits: "VPK offers children a play based experience that builds the foundational skills necessary for academic and lifelong success".

Fast facts:
  • VPK is free for children who reside in Florida and will be 4 years old by Sept. 1 of the year they enroll. Parents whose children are born between Feb. 2 and Sept. 1 of the calendar year may postpone enrolling their 4-year-old until the following year when their child is 5.
  • Results of kindergarten screenings have shown that children who completed VPK are better prepared for kindergarten than those who did not complete or did not attend VPK.
  • One of the first states to offer free prekindergarten to all 4-year-olds, Florida leads all other states in access.
  • During the 2016-2017 school year, about 76 percent of Florida's 4-year-olds-more than 165,000 children-were enrolled in VPK-- 6,515 in Pinellas County
  • Approximately 310 private, public and charter schools and private child care centers offer VPK in Pinellas County.
  • There are school year and summer VPK programs as well as specialized instructional services for 4-year-olds with special needs.
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About the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas
The Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County, Inc. works to ensure programs and services are available to assist young children during their formative years by administering Florida's Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) program and School Readiness (SR) Scholarships. Florida's VPK program is free for all children who are four-years-old. School Readiness Scholarships provide assistance for low-income working families by paying a portion of the child care costs on a sliding fee scale.

To request Child Care Resources and Referrals (CCR&R), please  Click Here
For more information on how you can help the families we serve, please Click Here
Please Contact Mary Burns, Communications Specialist
mburns@elcpinellas.net  |  727.400.4442 

Sponsorship by Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County., Florida's Office of Early Learning, 64% Federal Funds