Jefferson County Public Schools is actively recruiting young children to enroll in the district’s Early Childhood Programs sooner, but many families have historically put off applying until late summer.
This year, the number of students the district can serve could also be affected by funding cuts at the federal level.
“Some of the cuts that have occurred, it will impact what we’re having and we’re still working through what that’s going to be,” says JCPS’ Kathy Stovall.
Early childhood programs are needs-based and not mandatory, but research shows the effects of quality preschool programming are positive. JCPS has accepted over 5,000 students into its early childhood programming annually between the ages of six-weeks to 4-years-old, but receives most of its state and federal funding for its 4-year-old headcount.
The district is encouraging more parents of four-year-olds to take advantage of the programs to better prepare for kindergarten, says Kathy Stovall with JCPS’ early childhood programs, family and community partnerships.
The goal is to serve at least 3,000 4-year-olds, she says.
Each year about 30 percent of families wait to apply for programs in August, around the time school starts, Stovall says.
“That’s a really busy time for us. The staff is coming back and getting things prepared for children,” she says.
Over 3,000 students have already applied to programming, she says, but not all students are guaranteed a spot. Placement is partly based on the district’s ability to transport a child—which it does for three and 4-year-olds—and some programs fill up quickly, depending on availability, Stovall says.
“For example Luhr Elementary has only one classroom and it always fills quickly. Chancey and Shelby fill up quickly. These are just a few example of schools in different zip codes,” she says.
Stovall says district employees have been canvassing and getting the word out for parents to apply in all of Jefferson County and she says if certain program aren’t filled to capacity they will target those neighborhoods.
“There are some areas where we are still recruiting because we don’t have enough children coming from those areas that have applied to the program,” she says.
JCPS provides several different types of early childhood programming—including tuition-based and home-based programs–and in all, the district has around 200 classrooms, including 88 Head Start programs.
The district will accept in-person applications at various locations this week. Officials say there will be fewer application opportunities in August than in June and July.
Click here to see times and dates and for more information about how to apply for an early childhood program.