If you're planning to enroll your 4-year-old in a Chatham County Pre-K program, the time has come.
Applications for the upcoming school year's Pre-K lottery open first thing Tuesday morning.
This is a program that has seen continued growth over the years, which is why they have to use a lottery system for applications.
School officials tell WTOC there's been such high demand in the district that they have to limit numbers.
"We have a wait list, a phenomenal wait list, every year at the end, and we have parents constantly calling, wanting their children to be a part of this,” said SCCPSS Early Childhood Program Manager Cassandra Moss.
Here's how it works: Parents can choose three preferred schools when applying for the lottery within the next month. In April, a lottery drawing determines which students get seats. The rest go on waiting lists.
"It's a limited amount that we can take, and we do our best to open new classes every year to try to meet the needs of our community,” said Moss.
The district added four new Pre-K classes since last year, bringing the total up to 61 classes in 30 schools across the county. And now, for the first time, parents can choose schools outside of the ones they are zoned for when selecting preferences.
But demand isn't the only thing growing, so too is funding.
"It's one-third of the lottery funds. I think that shows you the importance of it,” said Sen. Ben Watson, Georgia State Senator, District 1.
Pre-K programs across the state are funded by the Georgia Lottery, from classroom supplies to field trips. And as lottery revenues have increased over the years, so has funding for Pre-K education. Now the state is considering increasing funding for Pre-K teacher salaries, and many believe it's worth it.
"Initially when we did Pre-K, we didn't have the scientific data, or the evidence-based data, to show that it actually worked, and now we do. We've done studies to show that it is good for those students to be enrolled in Pre-K. They do better both immediately and in the long-term-wise,” said Sen. Watson.
You can submit an application for your child starting Tuesday and up until March 8th. It is a randomized lottery, so while you're encouraged to get your paperwork in sooner rather than later, that won't increase the chances of securing a seat.
Paper applications can be found at the Pre-K school sites and at 208 Bull St. at the front reception desk. To apply online, click here.
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