Free preschool utility opens in January

Free preschool utility opens in January

Inside Colorado’s free preschool initiative

Many Colorado mother and father have begun to pick out their kids’s Ok-12 colleges for subsequent yr by on-line platforms operated by their faculty districts. 

However not preschool mother and father.

That’s a change from years previous, when mother and father might use the varsity selection course of to enroll their 4-year-olds in district-run preschool packages.

Now, with the state’s common preschool launching subsequent fall, most mother and father will apply for preschool utilizing a brand new and separate on-line utility that opens Jan. 17. Social media posts and questions fielded by district officers recommend the separate utility course of and timeline has jangled the nerves of some preschool mother and father. 

“They’re confused. They don’t know why it’s totally different,” stated Mackenzie Nickum, the director of enrollment providers within the Jeffco district, the place the Ok-12 enrollment window runs from Dec. 6 to Jan. 13.

The quick reply is that the state is doing one thing model new — rolling out a taxpayer-funded preschool program open to all 4-year-olds and a few youthful kids. The brand new program will change a smaller state-funded preschool program for kids from low-income households or who produce other danger components. 

Colorado early childhood leaders have been working for months to construct the brand new program, together with a statewide utility system that can match kids with taking part preschool suppliers their mother and father select. 

The applying can be “nearly as simple as shopping for on Amazon,” stated Lisa Roy, govt director of the Colorado Division of Early Childhood. “This can be a start-up, however we now have actually considered what works for fogeys.” 

Subsequent yr, all 4-year-olds can be eligible for 10-15 hours per week of tuition-free preschool in colleges, church buildings, baby care facilities, or state-licensed properties. Some 4-year-olds can be eligible to attend for 30 hours per week and a few 3-year-olds can be eligible for 10 hours. 

Roy stated the state preschool utility system will prioritize components resembling the need for preschoolers to proceed in this system the place they’re enrolled now, or to get a spot on the faculty a sibling attends, or the place a guardian works. Additionally, it’s not a first-come, first-served system, she stated, so early candidates gained’t robotically get precedence over households who apply later within the utility window.

Households can even be capable to reject a preschool match if their state of affairs modifications. For instance, Roy stated, if a preschooler lands a spot at a faculty mother and father thought their third grader would attend, they aren’t obligated to simply accept the seat if the third grader finally ends up elsewhere. 

Some Colorado faculty districts, together with Jeffco, have posted notes on their web sites alerting mother and father that enrollment in district-run preschools gained’t occur by in-house enrollment programs this yr. 

Nonetheless, questions abound. 

One mom posted in a Lakewood mothers Fb group, “I’m so confused with enrolling my daughter into preschool. Do I wait till January 2023 to use and what if she doesn’t get in?”

Nickum stated some mother and father’ considerations stem from the truth that traditionally, preschool spots in district lecture rooms have been extremely coveted, with too few seats to satisfy demand in some areas or time slots. This yr, Jeffco has about 2,000 preschool seats. 

The district will provide extra preschool spots subsequent yr — practically 2,800 — partly by elevating preschool class sizes from 16 to twenty college students. 

In Denver, the varsity selection window opens on Jan. 13, 4 days earlier than the preschool utility window opens. 

Priscilla Hopkins, the district’s govt director of early schooling, stated the district will talk with mother and father in early January to clarify that preschool gained’t be a part of that course of and fogeys must watch for the state utility. 

State officers can even launch a preschool consciousness marketing campaign early subsequent yr. 

Hopkins stated she’s excited concerning the shift to common preschool, however stated the transition is sophisticated and many particulars are nonetheless unfolding. She expects Denver to have sufficient common preschool spots for each household that desires one, although not each household will get its first selection. At present, the district serves about 5,400 preschoolers.  

“We’re all on this boat of change administration,” she stated. 

Ann Schimke is a senior reporter at Chalkbeat, protecting early childhood points and early literacy. Contact Ann at [email protected]