Prekindergarten programs are known to offer an educational and emotional boost to some children prior to entering kindergarten, and Alabama's First Class Pre-K program has been consistently recognized as one of the best in the nation.
Limestone County currently has nine First Class Pre-K classes — one at each elementary school, plus a second one at Creekside Primary School. Julia Wall, Limestone County Schools' pre-K director, said there is an average of 10-12 students on a waiting list each year to get into a prekindergarten program. She added interest in the program and enrollment is growing.
“We usually have a large waiting list at Creekside,” she said.
To that end, parents who want to enroll a child in a First Class Pre-K class can begin doing so Wednesday. The enrollment period ends March 20.
Limestone County Schools uses a lottery system to determine which students are chosen for the program. Those who aren't picked go on a waiting list.
Prior to Wall taking over the program three years ago, Limestone County had six First Class Pre-K classes. The system has picked up three more since then. The classes are made possible by grants from the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.
Wall said the cost of a prekindergarten class is $120,000, which covers the salaries for the lead and auxiliary teachers and benefits. It also covers the cost of outfitting the classroom with supplies and technology.
The demand from parents has become such that Wall is considering writing more grants to secure additional First Class Pre-K funding, but she said a final decision hasn't been made.
About pre-K education
There is a measurable difference, Wall said, in the academic careers of some students who are enrolled in a prekindergarten program and those who aren't.
“We've been able to track data from pre-K into third grade, and those students stay at grade level or above,” she said.
Last year, the Department of Early Childhood Education referenced a study that shows students who participate in First Class Pre-K are more likely to be proficient in math and reading, with no evidence that the benefits of high-quality pre-K fade out over time.
Pre-K students attend from 7:35 a.m. to 2 p.m. Transportation is not offered by Limestone County Schools. The required monthly tuition is based on a family income sliding scale and ranges from $40 to $300 per month.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey recently announced a $33-million grant had been awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which would be used for the state's early childhood education programs, including First Class Pre-K.
“As we continue to grow our First Class Pre-K program, we must also expand its learning methods and best practices from birth through third grade,” Ivey said. “When students are successful in their first few years of school, they are much more likely to be successful throughout their life.”
Last April, the National Institute for Early Education Research ranked Alabama's First Class Pre-K as the nation’s highest quality state prekindergarten program for the 13th consecutive year.
How to register
Those interested in signing up for the program for the 2020-2021 academic year should visit https://alprek.asapconnected.com to enroll. This year, for the first time, parents must enroll at the school where their child is zoned to attend kindergarten. In previous years, parents could pick any elementary school within the district.
Enrollees must have an active email address. A student's birth certificate and proof of residency must also be entered on the site in order to be considered.
The lottery drawing will occur 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 24. Parents will be notified via email if a student is drawn for a school roster or placed on a waiting list.
Visit https://www.lcsk12.org for more information or call the district at 256-232-5353.