School District 51 says every year it puts hundreds of Grand Valley kids into preschool -- but admits there are always many left on waiting lists trying to get in. Officials say they don't expect things to be any different this year and are encouraging parents to plan ahead.
"It's a big deal and kids really need it," said Grand Valley parent Melissa Stewart.
Stewart spent her Tuesday evening at a preschool open house at Appleton Elementary, filling out an application to get her daughter into preschool there. She says it's no secret there's a shortage of preschools in the Grand Valley, and she's keeping her fingers crossed.
"It can be very tough," said Stewart. "I'm hoping my child can get accepted here. We're actually not in this particular school's area."
Appleton preschool teacher Loni Wolfe says in the race to get your kids into preschool, Stewart is doing the right thing.
"There's only so many slots available," said Wolfe. "So it would be very advantageous for parents to come in, fill out those applications, and get their foot in the door, so to speak."
School District 51 says each year, it has about 700 spots in preschool classes, but gives preference to low income families and at-risk students. Officials say the district does offer tuition based preschool which allows anyone to enroll -- but it only makes up about 30 of those spots.
With those kinds of odds, Wolfe says she wasn't surprised to parents piling into her classroom Tuesday night --
"Boy, our open house started at four o'clock and by four o'clock I had people filling out applications," said Wolfe.
-- Especially as she says parents are really coming to terms with just how important preschool is.
"Preschool is such an important step in children's lives," said Wolfe. "Our curriculum is based through play. It is learning through play."
"Us parents don't always have a lot of time to do all the things we want to do, sit down with our kids and do a lot of the stuff they really need for kindergarten," said Stewart.
So for now, Stewart says she'll wait and hope.
Any student who will be turning three or four during the 2009-2010 school year may be eligible for the district's preschool program. Applications can be picked up and turned at the District 51 offices at 410 Hill Drive.
For more information, you can call the District's Early Childhood Education Department at 254-5429.