Thousands of seats still available in Chicago Public Schools' preschool programs

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Friday, August 5, 2022
CPS' free preschool program still has thousands of seats available
Chicago Public Schools is offering free pre-school for all CPS students beginning this school year -- and thousands of seats are still available.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Public Schools leaders are making a big push this week to get your kids enrolled in the district's preschool program.

There are still thousands of seats available for the school year that's fast-approaching.

APPLY HERE: Chicago Public Schools pre-school application

For the first time, Chicago Public Schools is offering free pre-school for all CPS students beginning this school year.

While thousands of parents have applied for a full-day program for 4-year-olds or half-day program for 3-year olds, there are plenty of seats left.

"We have about 4,000-plus seats for full-day and a little over 1,000 seats for half-day," said Leslie McKinily, interim chief officer of CPS' early childhood office.

SEE ALSO | Chicago Public Schools calendar: CPS plans August start date for 2022-2023 school year

It's an opportunity CPS is hoping parents in underserved communities take advantage of.

"There is a gap in development and we are able to help those families fill in that gap," Haugan Elementary pre-K teacher Rebecca Rodriguez said.

CPS says it's a program that provides real education, not a daycare.

"They develop communication skills as well as there are opportunities for academic learning and to develop their physical and gross motor," said Haugan Elementary Asst. Principal Melissa Sanchez.

But for parents looking for before and after school care or a smaller teacher to student ratio, the district helps fund privately-owned preschools through block grants, especially in underserved areas. But, not all schools get the funds. CPS did not chose Englewood's Building Blocks Learning Academy.

"This is a community where the block grant is needed," Building Blocks Learning Academy owner Michelle Redd said.

Redd says that without the block grant, it's a struggle to stay competitive, especially as CPS expands its own pre-K program.

"Finding access to quality childcare and credentialed teachers is indeed a challenge," Redd said. "So now we have one additional competitor to add to it: CPS."

Right now, CPS offers Pre-K in 64 of Chicago's 77 neighborhoods. The goal by next year is to provide the free program for 3 & 4 year olds in every neighborhood.