If you are looking for the best VPK and Preschool in St Cloud, FL for your little one, you can stop right now. I’m here today to tell you about First United Methodist Preschool and what makes this school so special. From the caring staff and secure environment to the daily activities and special events the children get to experience, there’s truly no better place to send your child for VPK and Preschool in St Cloud. I had the opportunity to speak to the Director of the school, Denise Dunn, to also answer the questions parents most frequently have. So, let’s dive into the interview with her!
First United Methodist Preschool St Cloud has been in operation for over 40 years. Many of the children that came when we first opened are starting to bring their own kids now! We pride ourselves on being a good old-fashioned preschool, not a daycare. This means the children spend their time at school always moving and learning. Our hours of operation are Monday through Thursday from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Classes take place from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM. We are licensed through the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
We believe that God created each child as a unique individual. Each child has the ability to learn, but not always at the same pace. We strive to teach each child by providing opportunities for tactile, kinesthetic, auditory, and physical learning. We provide a safe and loving environment of acceptance that promotes optimal learning.
First, we just love our entire staff here at First United Methodist Preschool. Our teaching staff members have been teaching for anywhere from 10-20+ years and many have been with us personally for a majority of that time. We also have been graced with many teachers from First United Methodist Preschool in Kissimmee. Our former parents have even become teachers and assistants here! All of our teachers are certified with National Child Development Associate (CDA), K-8 Teaching Certification, or Master’s Degrees. The entire staff has also been certified in CPR, First Aid, Blood-Borne Pathogen, Fire Extinguishers, and has taken active shooter training.
We have four classrooms and each classroom has a teacher and an assistant. Classrooms have no more than 17 children. There are 3 VPK classrooms and one preschool classroom. We want to make our classrooms fun for the kids! Each of our classrooms is filled with bright colors, fun centers, as well as the children’s artwork on display. It is important for the child to feel comfortable in their environment and to feel proud of the work they’ve accomplished.
Our campus is monitored with an outside camera security system. All cameras can be viewed from my office. We are a closed facility to outside guests unless pre-arranged. We also have security fencing around the entire school facility to make sure your children are safe.
Our days begin in our drive-thru! We are a closed campus and use the drive-thru for drop-off and pick-up. Each child is greeted by name and most often, the children will tell stories of what happened since we last saw them or over the weekend. They’re such characters at this age! A teacher or assistant will bring the child to their classroom where they will sit at their assigned seat for tabletop manipulatives. After this, each classroom is slightly different with their schedules. However, each classroom will have a welcome circle, active-learning center time, parent-provided snack, an academic circle, and playground time (roughly 30-45 minutes per day). We sure like to keep them busy in their 4 hours with us!
Our classrooms use the Frog Street curriculum which incorporates music and movement with the learning of letters, shapes, colors, and numbers. We also supplement with the High Scope curriculum. The teachers cover all of the VPK standards as well as the Florida Early Learning Standards. The children also cover different units such as community helpers and the seasons. The teachers perform the VPK assessment 3 times a year to monitor the progress of our VPK students. Our preschoolers are assessed with the Lollipop Assessment. By the time our school year is done, our preschoolers are more than ready to move up to VPK and our VPK students are fully prepared for Kindergarten!
After every school day, the teachers and assistants mop and vacuum their classrooms. They sanitize all of the toys and tables to make sure they are ready for the next school day. Our number one goal is to keep your child as safe and healthy as we can. We practice handwashing multiple times a day and have a strict health policy that parents receive at orientation. It can also be found on our website!
As far as discipline in the classroom, we believe in speaking to the children about good and bad choices and what they are. If they are struggling with bad choices, we redirect them to another area to help alleviate the behavior. The teachers also use a color system to help children learn the good and bad choices.
Teachers are always accessible to parents. Our school uses the REMIND app where you can communicate directly with the teacher. The teacher will also use the app to communicate important items and share pictures from the classroom. We also have a very active social media presence via Facebook and Instagram! Each day, a different classroom is featured and we show what the kids are working on that week. Due to COVID, in-person volunteering has been put on hold for the time being. However, teachers will often ask for volunteers to donate items towards classroom activities! Parents are also invited to any outside events we have.
We have many special activities that take place, some even monthly! As we are a faith-based school, we hold chapel once per month with the entire school. Puppets are used to reinforce the monthly Bible story and praise songs are taught. The children are taught that they are a special and unique gift from God and that Jesus loves them. We teach them short prayers to say before eating. Christian songs and music are an important part of our program. Upon graduation, each child receives a special children’s Bible that is identical to the one we use throughout the year.
The children partake in a few parades throughout the year, including the Storybook Parade for Harvest (we don’t celebrate Halloween) and the 100th Day Parade. We also have an amazing STEM event that we do each year towards the beginning of school (but I can’t give that secret away!). The children also participate in Christmas and Graduation programs. Wild Florida and the Fire Department stops by once per year as well. We are also very fortunate to have Fall, Spring, and Graduation photos each year as our school fundraiser!
If you are looking to enroll in VPK, your child must be 4 years old by September 1st of the enrolling school year. This is the Florida State Standard and cannot be changed (same applies for public school). VPK is free with a Certificate of Eligibility. Information on how to obtain this can also be found on our website! If you are looking to enroll in our preschool program, your child must be 3 years old by September 1st. Children must be fully potty trained to attend our program, and cannot be in pull-ups. Potty trained means they can also wipe for themselves! Preschool tuition is $3000 for the school year, broken down into 10 monthly payments of $300 per month. There is also a $125 registration fee.
The best way to prepare your child for going to school for the first time is to praise and encourage them while allowing them to do things for themselves. This includes cleaning up after they eat, putting toys away when they are done, washing their hands, and more. Practicing being away from your child for short intervals of time is also great if they have never been left with a babysitter!
We are currently a closed campus due to COVID, but we have taken the time to create a virtual tour of our facility! In this video, you’ll be able to hear from me directly and meet each of the teachers to view their classrooms (empty and during a real school day)! You will also be able to get a tour of the playground, view our drive-thru, and get a sample of Chapel. Take a peek below!
There you have it! First United Methodist Preschool is an amazing school for your child’s early learning. With small class sizes, amazing experiences, and hands-on learning, your child will be ready to start Kindergarten in no time at all. The best part? Ms. Denise is always there to answer your questions and help in any way she can. You can contact her directly by phone at 407-892-6884 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you are able to join the best VPK and Preschool in St Cloud!
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