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Parents of 4-Year-Olds Invited to Apply to Pre-Kindergarten

If your child will be 4 years old by Aug. 31 and you live in Forsyth County, you’re invited to apply to have your child participate in the pre-kindergarten program. The pre-k program operated by Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools is designed to help children prepare for kindergarten.

As with kindergarten through high school, at least the first nine weeks of the pre-k program will be virtual. Remote learning will begin on Aug. 17.

It is recommended that applications be delivered to the Smart Start office at 7820 Northpoint Blvd. For more information and for applications forms, go to Pre-Kindergarten.

Beam 1 By Kim Underwood

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

JULY 28, 2020 – During these trying times, parents enrolling their 4-year-old child in the pre-kindergarten program enables the child to spend time with other children as they embark on learning adventures.

Children will be participating in an exceptionally strong pre-kindergarten program, said Teressa Beam, who is the Director of Early Learning for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

“I believe it is one of the best in the state,” she said. “Many of our staff have master’s degrees.”

Although the early weeks of the pre-kindergarten program will be virtual, children will still be able to interact with other children their age.

“We are offering them the opportunity to be able to see and talk to other children,” said Elia Spencer, the Pre-Kindergarten Social/Emotional Support Specialist for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

Beam said, “They will have the opportunity to see their friends in their classroom.”

While working with their teacher, children will receive personalized attention. In addition to working online with a full class of students, the certified teachers will regularly work with children in small groups of no more than four students and, at least once a week, the teacher will work with each child individually.

“We are excited about offering remote learning that is interactive, hands-on and engaging,” Beam said.

To help parents learn what they need to know to connect their child with the pre-kindergarten program, Beam said, “Teachers will have virtual one-on-one open house sessions with parents.”

Spencer 4 In addition to providing parents with information they need to know, the sessions will provide the opportunity for parents and teachers to start getting to know each other.

The hours of the pre-kindergarten can be adjusted to meet the needs of each family, and teachers will talk with parents about what schedule would work best for them.

“Our staff will be flexible,” Beam said. 

As part of the pre-k program, children will learn such literacy skills as recognizing letters and learning to write their name and such social-and-emotional skills as learning to share and to take turns.

During remote learning at the end of this past school year, children would create crafts. Parents would take photos or videos, and the child would talk to others in the class about the project.

“I believe pre-kindergarten is an opportunity for kids to learn how to explore and to be excited about learning,” Beam said.

One way that Beam enjoys working with children in pre-kindergarten is reading books with them and asking questions about what is happening in the story.

“I love asking questions that encourage them to think,” Beam said.

If your child will be 4 years old by Aug. 31 and you live in Forsyth County, you are invited to apply to have your child participate in the pre-kindergarten program. The pre-k program operated by Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools is designed to help children prepare for kindergarten.

As with kindergarten through high school, at least the first nine weeks of the program will be virtual. Remote learning will begin on Aug. 17.

The school system works in partnership with two other community organizations – Head Start and Smart Start – to operate the Pre-K program in Forsyth County.

The goal is to make sure that children are ready for kindergarten and ready to learn.

“Our teachers are very excited to get started,” Spencer said.

In previous years, there has often been a waiting list for the pre-k program by this time. This year – most likely because of the coronavirus pandemic – fewer applications have come in. And, although the programs at some schools are full, many slots have not yet been filled.

“We still have many available slots,” Spencer said.

Kinder 5 The pre-k program is held throughout the county at WS/FC elementary schools and at other locations. As part of the application, parents can say what location and program they want their child to participate in. Stating a preference does not guarantee placement in that program. Even if the pre-kindergarten program at a particular location is full at the moment, parents can put their child’s name on the waiting list.

In talking with some parents, Spencer has learned that some have not applied because they think the family’s income would make them ineligible. She encourages them to go ahead and apply because, although some other participants in the pre-kindergarten program have strict income cutoffs, the school system has more latitude, and, if it’s determined that the program would serve a child, that child would be welcomed into the program.

“We have a little bit more flexibility,” Spencer said.

“We have a variety of funding options,” Beam said. “I would encourage all parents to apply for pre-k.”

Along with information about income, as part of the application process, parents will have to provide such documentation as a birth certificate and complete Ages & Stages Questionaires (ASQ) that provide information about the child’s stages of development.

Parents ask their children to do such things as cut a sheet of paper in half and report the results. They also answer such questions as “Does your child enjoy playing with other children? And “If they see someone is sad, are they concerned?”

Spencer’s favorite question is “What do you like most about your child?”

“Some people say, ‘Everything,’” she said

Others talk about watching how joyful the child can be.

Spencer has three children on her own. If she were asked that question, she would answer “Their sense of curiosity about the world.”

Partners for the program include NC Pre-K, a program of the Division of Child Development and Early Education in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services designed to provide high-quality educational experiences to enhance school readiness for eligible 4-year-olds.

Money for the program also comes from Project Impact,  a community initiative created to provide money to WS/FCS to help address critical student achievement gaps, and from Title, a federal program created to provide money to school districts with a high percentage of students from low-income families.