Little Rock School District to add 300 new pre-K slots for 4-year-olds | Arkansas Blog

Little Rock School District to add 300 new pre-K slots for 4-year-olds


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UPDATE: The district has extended the registration period by two weeks.

Thanks to a federal grant to expand preschool programs, the Little Rock School District will be able to open an additional 15 pre-K classrooms for 4-year-old children from income-eligible families in the 2015-16 school year, despite the district's coming loss of tens of millions in state desegregation money.

Parents need to register for the new slots by Thursday of this week at the Woodruff Early Childhood Center at 3010 W. 7th St (see below for more information on registration). The district announced the new classrooms earlier this month

Dr. Karen James, Early Childhood Department Director for the LRSD, said the funding comes from the U.S. Department of Education, which awarded about $15 million in new money to Arkansas last fall for the state to provide broader pre-K access. The Arkansas Department of Human Services says on its website that the High-Quality Preschool Program grant "supports the expansion and improvement of high quality preschool programs for four (4) year olds only in high need communities located in designated Priority or Focus school districts/communities." LRSD contains a number of Priority and Focus schools, which are academic performance designations by the state Education Department.

James said there's a definite need for more pre-K slots in Little Rock. "Only about half of our incoming kindergartners have attended an [LRSD] pre-K program," she said "A few may have attended a private program," she added, though not many.

"There is a waiting list for pre-K district-wide. We have more than enough families and children in our community to fill those slots," she said. The addition of the new slots won't affect the placement of students who have already been assigned to a school.

Access to the new slots is limited only to parents who are income-eligible for Arkansas Better Chance, the state's preschool tuition assistance program available to families at or below 200 percent of the poverty line. That's somewhat different from the LRSD's existing pre-K classrooms for 4-year-olds, which are open to any family in the LRSD. The district picks up the cost of tuition for parents whose incomes are too high to qualify for ABC.

In contrast, because of intense demand, the district has always limited its classrooms for 3-year-olds to families who meet the ABC income eligibility requirements. Although this new grant money is limited to creating new 4-year-old classrooms, James said 3-year-old classrooms will be a top priority in the future. (The legislature, and the governor, have shown little interest in boosting the state's commitment to pre-K funding, however. The slight bump given to ABC this year doesn't make up for years and years of flat funding with no adjustment for inflation — a stagnation which, to be fair, occurred mostly on Democrat Mike Beebe's watch.)

The LRSD has contacted parents on the pre-K waiting list who are income-eligible to let them know about the new slots, James said. But because of the short timeline involved — the district will have to hire new teachers to staff those classrooms in the next couple of months — parents must register in the coming three days.

If a parent can't make it to registration in the next three days, James said, they should call the LRSD's Early Childhood Department at (501) 447-7360. "I can't make any promises," she said, but "we’ll see what we can do."

Here's what parents need to know (from the LRSD's flyer):

The Little Rock School District is pleased to announce that it will be adding 15 new P-4 (four-year-old) classrooms for qualifying students in the 2015-16 school year. In addition to families meeting the criteria listed in the chart found on the flyer, the student must be four by August 1, 2015. Click here to download the flyer (page two is in Spanish).

The new seats will be available at Woodruff Early Childhood Center and Bale, Booker, Carver, Franklin, Geyer Springs, Rockefeller, Romine, Stephens, and Washington elementary schools. Registration will be held at Woodruff Early Childhood Center, 3010 W. 7th on the following dates:

June 23, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
June 24, 10 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
June 25, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

To register, qualifying families must bring:

Birth Certificate or Proof of Birth
Child's Social Security Card or Number
Current Proof of Address (utility bill or rental agreement with parent/guardian's name )
Current Proof of Income (pay stub from previous 30 days or 2014 W-2)

If your child has already been assigned a pre-K seat, he or she will remain at his/her assigned school.


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