Registration for the voluntary pre-kindergarten program in the DeKalb County School system will be conducted in July at Smithville Elementary School and DeKalb West School. The exact date has not yet been announced
Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-K through 6th grade, said state funding provides for a total of four pre-k classes at Smithville Elementary School and one class at DeKalb West School.
Eligible children must be four years of age by September 30th and their parents must meet the federal income guidelines.
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Burklow said the registration this year will be earlier than normal. "In the past, we have had pre-K registration on the same day as our kindergarten through 12th grade registration. This summer we're going to try to do that a little differently. We know how rushed parents are trying to get from one school to the next. There's more intense paperwork that comes with the pre-K program because it is the first year of the child's entry into school. So we want to be able to slow down that process, make the parents feel a little more comfortable with the process, and be able to talk with the children and let them become familiar with a few things going on in the school," said Burklow.
"We plan on doing this (registration) in July but we do not have the exact date because we are coordinating with our principals, teachers, and coordinated school health because we want her to do some vision and hearing screening on that day. Of course, we also want our school nutrition lady, Stephanie Walker there that day. There's several people coming together that day. We'll have little stations set up for our parents to progress through that process," said Burklow
"As a reminder, on that day please bring the child's birth certificate. We need the birth certificate that has on it the raised seal of Tennessee and not the one that says "Live Birth". That's not the original birth certificate. We also need children to have a physical examination. In addition to that documentation, we will also need immunization records that are up to date. That's one of the things that is looked at very closely at the beginning of the year. Our nurses go through the school records to make sure those immunizations are up to date," continued Burklow.
"Once we have the children registered, we have certain guidelines we must meet because we apply for a grant and the grant dictates what we can and cannot do as far as students who are eligible. So when parents come in and register their children, we will keep them in numerical order. We have our folders numbered and when you're given a folder you'll go through the process of the stations with us and we'll put you on a list in the order that you come in. After we get the folders together, we have to go through and look at the guidelines. One of the first things we have to make sure of is that our children are age four on or before September 30th. That's the first guideline we have to follow is that age for our pre-K children. We do have a few classrooms that take three year old children. We try to serve our four year old children first because we want to front load those babies going into kindergarten. We want to give them the benefit of being in the school, acclamating to the school so they will feel more comfortable when they go into kindergarten," said Burklow.
"I do have some parents who call and say, My child is supposed to go to kindergarten but they're not ready for kindergarten. We cannot take five year old children into the program unless there is some type of circumstance that we can go to the state department about. For the most part, five year old children are required to register for kindergarten," said Burklow.
"The second thing we look at is our children who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program. That's why we want Ms. Stephanie Walker there because she will have the new guidelines. The guidelines change every year. She can look at the income the parents turn in and see if they qualify right there," added Burklow.
"If we do not get our program filled up, we do look at children with disabilities, those that may have an English as a second language, children in state custody, or those at-risk for failure due to circumstances of abuse or neglect."
"At Smithville Elementary we have eighty slots for pre-K students and twenty slots at DeKalb West. We do have a curriculum that we go by. It's not one of those you'll see in the first, second, or third grade. It's totally different. It's play. These children learn through play. We have stations set up all day long where the children are learning. They're playing together but they're learning their alphabet, learning math, social studies, and science skills. This is really a hands-on program, getting them ready to go to kindergarten," concluded Burklow.