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Nashville's Universal Pre-K Plan Would Offer English Immersion, Chief Says

Nashville's schools chief Jesse Register is offering up yet another reason to provide free, universal preschool for all of the city's 4-year-olds: A quarter of them come from homes where English is not spoken, and English immersion starting in pre-K would greatly benefit them as they matriculate to the K-12 system, he asserts.

"It's not very hard to think about the impact you can have if you have 4-year-old children who don't speak English who have an opportunity to go to school and learn a language and interact with other people," Register told The Tennessean. "It's a real jump-start."

The comment came after Register announced that he would like to use a 4,800-square-foot space within Nashville's Casa Azafrán community center to create a third preschool hub there for a cost of between $450,000 and $600,000 annually, said Joseph A. Bass, a district spokesman. Additional costs will be incurred if the building itself must be modified, but those costs have not been identified at this time, he said. 

The program must also be approved by the nine-member school board, Bass said.

Two hubs were approved by the school board Feb. 11, the first hurdle in expanding the district's pre-K offering from about 2,500 students to upwards of 4,000 over the next several years.

The demand for preschool services will grow in general, Register said, in an e-mail interview with Education Week. Already, some 1,000 students are on waiting lists to enter district programs. Moreover, the population of 4-year-olds is expected to increase from 8,680 in 2014 to 9,218 in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Nashville is on the cusp of a trend in which cities and school districts are creating their own boutique pre-K systems instead of waiting for state or federal entities to help. To see more on the issue, click here.

To learn more about the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, click here.

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