Act Early for Preschool Spots
Sending your child to preschool next fall? It’s not too early to start visiting programs and completing applications, according to area preschool directors. Many preschools have registration in January or February, eight or nine months before the first day of class. And first-time parents who wait to register can end up disappointed — on a waiting list or completely closed out.
“Parents often are really surprised at how early they have to register for preschool,” says Melisa Welch, director of the Early Childhood Program at Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh. “It can be difficult for parents to visit a variety of preschools and pick the one they like when their child is still so young.”
Parents are encouraged to visit a variety of programs and select their top choices. It is often a good idea to complete applications for several preschools, in case some fill up early. Preschool registration usually has a pecking order: children returning to the program, siblings of children in the program, members of the affiliated church and then the general public.
Depending on the school year, it is not unusual for some preschools to fill before the public registration, directors say, which is why it’s smart to pick several preschools and not get your heart set on just one.
“Some programs have a first-come, first-served policy for the public registration,” says Sandy Duncan, director of the Children’s Center at Greenwood Forest Baptist Church in Cary. “Others draw names for the open spots.”
At Montessori Children’s House of Durham, preschool classes also are balanced for age, gender and diversity, says Tammy Squires, the school’s business manager. “We accept applications any time during the year, but registration is held in February and March,” she says. “Some of our classes for younger children always have a waiting list.”
According to area directors, parents should tour all of the preschools they are interested in. While recommendations from other parents and relatives can be helpful, the decision about the best preschool for your child can only be made by you.
Parents should ask to see a policy manual, curriculum listing and plan book for the classes. School and teacher credentials, class sizes, teacher-child ratios, school philosophies and discipline guidelines also are important. Some church-affiliated programs have chapel services and others don’t.
“We have a lot of wonderful preschools in the Triangle,” Duncan says. “Parents need to select their first, second and third choices when registering. There are so many good programs that most people are not disappointed if they don’t get their first choice.”
Jane Paige is a writer and mother who lives in Cary.