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Tips for New Georgia Pre-K Parents

October 6, 2015
georgia pre-k enrollment tips for new parents: georgia pre-k week

Happy Georgia Pre-K Week! If you’re new to Pre-K (like us), the idea behind Pre-K Week is to draw attention to Georgia’s early education programs by inviting state leaders to visit classrooms.

While the state seems to be doing a nice job getting the word out about Pre-K Week and the benefits of early childhood education, I feel the powers-that-be could do a better job of explaining this:

How do parents go about getting their child into a Pre-K program in the first place?

Our four-year-old daughter, Lucie, started Pre-K in early August. The thrill of seeing her start her first day of elementary school was preceded by months of confusion, as I searched online and asked around for direction on how to apply for programs (and when). Seasoned elementary school parents know where to search and whom to ask, but for parents who are new to the process, clear (and relevant) information is hard to come by.

In the meantime, now that we’re two months in, I thought I’d help point new parents in the right direction, when it comes time to enroll for Pre-K. Note that this is based on our personal experience, so procedures could vary. Contact Bright From The Start with any questions.

  1. How does Georgia Pre-K work?
    Georgia Pre-K is a lottery-funded educational program for four-year-olds. Georgia Bright From the Start oversees accredited Pre-K programs (both private and public), but the free/state-funded programs are only available in select locations

    According to the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), there is at least one program in each of Georgia’s 159 counties. They operate in many local school systems, daycare centers, military bases, and colleges/universities.
  2. Where is Pre-K offered?
    According to the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), there is at least one program in each of Georgia’s 159 counties. They operate in many local school systems, daycare centers, military bases, and colleges/universities.

  3. How do I enroll my child?
    Many (state-funded) Georgia Pre-K programs are on a lottery system; since the programs are voluntary for public and private schools, the demand tends to exceed the number of available slots. When we applied to the our local elementary school’s Pre-K program, Lucie’s chances of being selected were about 1 in 5 (talk about lucky!). DECAL states that overall, only about 58% of Georgia’s four-year-olds are served in the program.Lottery dates vary from school to school, and they aren’t posted consistently (that I have been able to find), so the best thing to do is reach out to a handful of schools at the beginning of the year and ask for the lottery registration dates and times. There is only one day, and you must be present in person to enter, so it’s important that you clear your schedule ahead of time. It took me about an hour to get through the line, and I arrived early.If you are applying for a program at a public school, keep in mind that you can only apply at the public school you are zoned for, and you’ll need to provide proof of residence to enter the lottery.
  4. When do I found out the results of the lottery?
    Our school posted the lottery results on the same day. The drawing itself is open to the public, should you want to attend. Otherwise, they’ll likely post a list of names on the school’s front door. You’ll need to go check the list, or have a friend check for you.
  5. What if I don’t get in?
    Those who aren’t selected can ask to be placed on a waiting list. Georgia Bright From The Start also has a hotline that you can call (1-888-4GA-PREK), where they can help walk you through your options. If private (paid) Pre-K is an option for you, it can be easier to find a slot at these centers.

  6. What if I do get in?
    You’ll need to go back to the school again over the summer to “officially” register your child for Pre-K. They will need your proof of residency again (actually, just keep this in a safe place – I feel like we had to show this 50 times before school actually started!) You’ll also need to fill out a bunch of paperwork, you know, stating that your Pre-K child has never committed a felony and so forth. Contact the school to see when registration dates are, since the school will only be open part-time during the summer.You’ll also need to note the date of Open House. Many schools require you to be present at open house to get your child registered (and, you guessed it – provide proof of residency), and to sign up for the After School program.The school will likely send you a packet of information letting you know anything else you need to know to get squared away.

  7. Can my Pre-K child participate in After School?
    Definitely a key question to ask, if both parents work. Here is how this worked at our elementary school. Pre-K children cannot attend outside after school programs, unless they have their own transportation, because they are too young to ride the bus. However, they are eligible to attend After School at the school. At our school, after school is also a lottery that you have to enter, but Pre-K kids automatically get a spot (because this is their only after school option). The cost averages around $300/month.

I will post a follow-up with some tips for preparing your child for pre-k and adjusting as a family, once Lucie has a couple more months under her belt. Stay tuned!