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Ms. D leads K3 Wrap-Around Program at Fratney School


Damaris Espada Ortiz leads K3 Wrap-Around Program at Fratney School

Ms. D knows Milwaukee Recreation. In her lengthy tenure with the department, Damaris Espada Ortiz has covered roles spanning a variety of program areas, including adult sports, citywide programs, and positions within the MPS Central Services building. But Espada Ortiz’ passion for child care has always brought her back to Milwaukee Recreation’s before- and after-school programs.

Espada Ortiz, known as Ms. D to her students and staff, is the lead teacher at the Fratney School K3 Wrap-Around Program, which was launched ahead of the 2021-22 academic year to provide full-day learning opportunities to three-year-old kindergarten students. Families who have signed up for the half-day K3 program at Fratney – either in the morning or afternoon – can also register for the alternate wrap-around session to complete the full day.

“The program allows parents to work comfortably all day, knowing their child is in a safe environment where they are constantly learning,” Cynthia Cruz, Milwaukee Recreation’s K3 Wrap-Around Program supervisor, said. “Children soak up so much information at this age, so being able to provide a quality childcare program along with a half day of K3 only furthers their development.”

Prior to heading up the Fratney program, Espada Ortiz spent nine years as the assistant director at Milwaukee Recreation’s Child Care Camp at Whitman School, while also filling in where needed at other Milwaukee Recreation before- & after-school locations. Espada Ortiz moved to the Fratney K3 Wrap-Around Program in September 2021 as a resource staff member before transitioning to the lead teacher role in January 2022. “I value [Espada Ortiz] because of her motivation and drive to be a successful childcare teacher. She was a part of the beginning of the Milwaukee Recreation K3 Wrap-Around Program with her expertise in childcare programming,” Cruz said.

Milwaukee Recreation invested in the K3 Wrap-Around Program with a state-ofthe-art facility. The room is decorated warmly and there are high quality pieces of equipment that allow the students to move seamlessly from one activity to the next. The wrap-around classroom also sits right next door to the traditional K3 classroom, allowing the students who are a part of the program to easily move from one space to the other between sessions.

Milwaukee Recreation’s K3 Wrap-Around Program works alongside the traditional K3 class at Fratney. Fratney is a dual language school, so Espada Ortiz provides instruction in both English and Spanish, adding more and more Spanish to the classroom throughout the school year. “At this stage in their lives, their brains are making connections that allow the learning of languages a little more easily than if they start later in life,” Espada Ortiz said.

Everything about the K3 Wrap-Around Program is designed to provide a safe space for the children to grow and learn. Espada Ortiz and her staff lead different program themes each week, such as health & safety or shapes & figures. A daily session includes a wide range of activities, such as arts & crafts, music, singing, & dancing, and reading. “We are the first step in their educational journey. I want to make sure it is a positive one, that they enjoy learning, and are treated with kindness and respect,” Espada Ortiz said.

Throughout the day, children flock to Espada Ortiz, excited to dance with her, read with her, or show her a new drawing. Espada Ortiz responds to all of it with incredible positivity and joy. “I believe a child who enjoys learning and coming to school will in the long run be more successful. I would like that for each and every one of our children. They deserve it.”


Stephen Davis, Media Relations Manager
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