The next school year may not start for another six months, but prekindergarten application deadlines are fast approaching.
Class sizes are limited, and enrollment for some schools is first-come, first-serve.
Although it’s not a requirement for students to attend a state pre-K program, area educators say it’s an invaluable experience that prepares students for kindergarten. Students must be 4 years old by Sept. 1, 2017, to enroll.
Prekindergarten helps children transition from a relaxed home environment to a daily routine, said Blanche Lamb, the Houston County school system’s coordinator for special programs. There’s more time in pre-K than in kindergarten for students to be nurtured and get adjusted.
“Many children who enter pre-K have never been in a classroom setting,” said Barbara Woods, Georgia pre-K project director for Childcare Network, which has 70 locations in Georgia, including Bibb and Houston counties. “Georgia pre-K helps children develop social skills through interactions with adults and peers.”
The program provides children with fun learning experiences that cater to their “curious natures” and opportunities for gross motor play, Lamb said. Teachers work with students on early literacy, science, social students, emotional and social development, interaction, problem-solving skills and manners, said Bibb County Elementary Coordinator Olena Stadnik.
“Research shows that a high-quality preschool experience can be linked to a child’s success in school and in life,” said Alicia Elder, the Monroe County schoool district’s assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. “Georgia’s pre-K program focuses on providing a strong foundation necessary for future learning through engaging classroom activities.”
Students master basic skills such as walking and waiting in line, navigating a cafeteria and going to the restroom, which allow them to focus on academics when they enter kindergarten, Lamb said. In addition, they develop a sense of independence and gain confidence.
“We are working on the whole child, not just the academic side,” Stadnik said. “We prepare them for kindergarten, and we want them to be comfortable when they get into the school. Kids who have been in the pre-K program are a step ahead.”
Pre-K classes are limited to 22 students. The Houston County school district has spaces for 1,012 pre-K students; Bibb, 792; Jones, 242; Monroe, 198; Bleckley, 154; and Peach, 66.
Houston, Bibb, Peach and Monroe counties often receive more applications than they have available slots. Bleckley usually is filled up before school starts, said county Pre-K Director Pansy Corbett.
Peach, Houston and Bibb counties use a lottery system to select students, while Monroe County and Childcare Network sites enroll students on first-come, first-serve basis.
Bleckley accepts in-county students first-come, first-serve, and out-of-county students who applied are contacted in early summer if there are vacancies. Jones County will do a lottery drawing if they have filled up by Feb. 3; otherwise, applications will be accepted until all spots are filled.
Children are placed on a waiting list if the pre-K programs they applied for are at capacity. Parents can also look at other providers and private day cares or programs. Visit www.decal.ga.gov/ProviderSearch/PreK to search for pre-K programs in your area.
The documentation required for most programs is birth certificate, proofs of parent residency, child’s Social Security card, parent ID, guardianship/custody papers if applicable, Georgia immunization form 3231, and hearing, vision an dental exam form 3300.
How to apply
Registration: Feb. 5 through Feb. 20.
Where to apply: www.bcsdk12.net or the Board of Education office, 484 Mulberry St., Suite 267, Macon.
Registration: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 9 in the pre-K cafeteria for both in-county and out-of-county applications, and then from 8 a..m to 3 p.m. at the pre-K office.
Where to apply: Pre-K office, 242 E. Dykes St., Cochran.
Registration: There is not set deadline for when applications must be received.
Where to apply: Pick up a packet at any Childcare Network location, listed at www.childcarenetwork.com/.
Registration: Employees can register their children from Feb. 13-17; Feb. 27-March 3 is for applications to Bonaire, Hilltop, Russell and Shirley Hills elementary schools and David Perdue Primary; March 6-10, Lake Joy Primary and Centerville, Eagle Springs, Northside and Quail Run elementary schools; March 13-17, C.B. Watson Primary and Lindsey, Miller, Parkwood and Westside elementary schools; and March 20-24, Tucker, Kings Chapel, Langston Road, Matt Arthur and Morningside elementary schools.
Where to apply: Central Registration at the Bert Rumble Complex, 303 S. Davis Drive, Warner Robins.
Information: 478-988-6200 ext. 10193 or www.bit.ly/2iWvGZm.
Registration: Deadline is Feb. 3, but applications will be accepted until all spots are filled.
Where to apply: The elementary school in your child’s zone — Dames Ferry, Gray, Turner Woods or Wells elementary schools.
Registration: Packets can be picked up at the Board of Education from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 21. On Feb. 27, parents may call 478-994-2031 or visit www.monroe.k12.ga.us to make a registration appointment. Appointments begin March 6.
Where to apply: Monroe County Board of Education, 25 Brooklyn Ave., Forsyth.
Registration: March 1-22.
Where to apply: The school or Peach County Board of Education, 523 Vineville St., Fort Valley.
Information: 478-825-5933 or www.peachschools.org/.