Teachers and staff gathered at the new Pre-K 4 SA facility at Brooks City Base on Monday for a convocation with Mayor Julian Castro and other city leaders.

It was a chance for Castro to see his vision coming to life, as Pre-K 4 SA sets to launch on Aug. 26.

"We want this to be the greatest Pre-K initiative that any student can ever walk into," said Castro. "What we promised the voters is that we will deliver excellent, high-quality, full-day Pre-K for 4-year-olds in our city and that's what we're going to do."

Since voter approval last year, 144 teachers and staff were hired and two brand new facilities constructed.

One is located at Brooks City Base; the other at the Medical Center.

Each is made to cater to 4-year-old students who will spend all day learning early skills for reading, math, science and technology. 

Pre-K 4 SA CEO Kathy Bruck said students will have access to smart boards and iPads.

"The children go from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and they will have a nap and they'll have breakfast, lunch and snack and if they stay for our after school program until 6 p.m., then they'll get an additional snack," said Bruck.

According to Bruck, there were about 1,000 applications for students but only 700 spots were available, leaving a waiting list of about 300.

However, next year, two more campuses will open, which will provide more space.

"Next year, we'll open two more centers at full capacity, so we'll have 2,000 4-year-olds in all the centers," said City Manager Sheryl Sculley. "We'll be doubling that next year, going to full capacity by Year 3."

Although there's demand for the program, there has been controversy in the past regarding the need.

A recent federal study showed Pre-K programs don't have a lasting impact.

Bruck, however, defended the program.

"Do you want to invest the money up-front and do a quality job when you start school or do we want to play catch-up as we have been having to do, and deal with dropout recovery and intervention that are ... a lot more costly than a Pre-K program," said Bruck.

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