DougCo families take advantage of free preschool program

Suzie Glassman

By: Suzie Glassman/NewsBreak Denver

(Castle Rock, CO) Families in DougCo have submitted close to 1,800 applications in just the past two weeks for enrollment in Colorado’s new universal preschool program.

Diane Smith, director of the Douglas County Early Childhood Council, said the process is going well. So far, about 100 licensed school, community, and home-based programs are participating in the program.

Families with an eligible three- or four-year-old can receive up to 10 hours (part-time) or 15 hours (half-day) per week of state-funded preschool in the year before kindergarten. Some children may qualify for 30 hours if they live in a low-income household, have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), are identified as homeless, live in foster care or non-certified kinship care, or are learning to speak English.

“I think the biggest confusion is still around 3-year-olds since they can only apply to the school district and only if they have a qualifying condition,” said Smith. “All other 3-year-olds need to go through the typical channels to sign up for preschool.”

Smith said the other concern is that the school district has limited spots for qualifying 4-year-olds wanting more than 10 hours per week.

“Parents of children on IEPs are especially concerned because they would love the additional support for their children.,” said Smith. “The district is going to provide half-day programming in six classrooms at the Early Childhood Education south site, and there are three sites that provide full-day programming.

The computer will begin matching applicants to preschools on February 14. Families can reject the system’s choice and resubmit an application, depending on when the rejection is completed.

Families with questions can contact the DougCo Early Childhood Council or refer to Colorado’s universal preschool website, which includes frequently asked questions.

The proven benefits of preschool

In 2017, some of the nation’s most prominent early education researchers published a report outlining findings from a decade’s worth of studies on the impact of preschool on kindergarten readiness.

According to the findings, “kids who attend public preschool programs are better prepared for kindergarten than kids who don’t.”

The authors also found that while all kids benefit from preschool, poor and disadvantaged kids make the most gains. Plus, children learning English see significant benefits in their English-language proficiency and academic skills.

Still, the researchers noted their findings don’t mean preschool should be targeted toward poor or disadvantaged kids. Rather, “part of what may render a pre-K classroom advantageous” for these children “is the value of being immersed among a diverse array of classmates.”

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I'm a reporter covering the Douglas County School District in Colorado.

Denver, CO

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