Will Smith Zoo School, the nature-based preschool located on the campus of the San Antonio Zoo, has received its first donation towards a scholarship endowment.
H-E-B donated $250,000 to the private pre-k on Friday. The Zoo School plans to invest the money and use the interest for scholarships, so the first tuition assistance is at least a year away.
Stacey McReynolds, vice president of education at the San Antonio Zoo, said the school hopes to use H-E-B’s donation as seed money for a larger endowment, with a goal of raising up to $5 million — enough to provide scholarships for up to 30 percent of its students.
“This is just the start of building something that will last a lifetime and be so valued by our community,” McReynolds said. “We have grand plans and goals.”
Right now, the Zoo School has 118 students. It moved into a newly renovated, state-of-the-art building on the zoo’s grounds in January with a capacity for 220.
Experts say there still aren’t enough affordable, high-quality preschool options in San Antonio, and the Zoo School scholarships could help fill a part of that gap. The private pre-k does not currently have scholarships, and tuition is $750 a month for five hours a day, five days a week.
The dedicated one-eighth cent sales tax funding Pre-K 4 SA provides about 4,000 seats, and when Pre-K 4 SA started the city estimated that 6,000 4 year olds who qualified for free, state-funded preschool didn’t have access to full-day programs.
“In the state of Texas, they provide half-day funding for eligible four-year-olds,” said Sarah Baray, CEO of Pre-K 4 SA. “High-quality pre-k is, by definition, full day.”
Preschool can also be too expensive for families who fall just outside of income eligibility for state pre-k; about $45,000 for a family of four.
McReynolds said every classroom has at least one teacher with a bachelor’s degree or higher, and the zoo school is applying for accreditation under the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille