New laws affect eligibility for prekindergarten pupils

March 30, 2003

Beginning in the fall, prekindergarten enrollment will be affected by two federal and state laws that make income an important factor in determining eligibility.

Factors that previously qualified a child for prekindergarten, such as month of birth, speech and language, medical history and family background, will continue to be considered. To be eligible for prekindergarten in the fall, a child must have turned 4 years old by Oct. 31.

The purpose for prekindergarten is to prepare at-risk children for kindergarten. Through a structured program of language arts, mathematics, theme-related project work, self-directed activities, literature and outdoor play, children acquire the work habits, knowledge and social skills needed for kindergarten.

Prekindergarten operates in two half-day sessions: From 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day. Parents must ensure that their children attend regularly and participate in two parent-teacher conferences a year.

Families may pick up an application at any Harford County elementary school. All 18 items on the application must be completed, and the attendance notification and parent-teacher conference form also must be signed. A copy of the child's birth certificate and proof of residence are required. The health inventory is not required until the child is accepted into the program. A completed application does not guarantee acceptance for prekindergarten.

The completed application must be delivered in person to the elementary school with the prekindergarten program that the family wishes the child to attend. A family may submit an application to only one prekindergarten site.

Harford County elementary schools with prekindergarten programs include: Abingdon, Bakerfield, Bel Air, Church Creek, Darlington, Dublin, Deerfield, Edgewood, George Lisby at Hillsdale, Hall's Cross Roads, Havre de Grace, Homestead-Wakefield, Joppatowne, Magnolia, Meadowvale, North Harford, Prospect Mill, Riverside, Roye-Williams, William Paca/Old Post Road and William S. James.

The first prekindergarten application period begins at 8:30 a.m. May 2 and ends at 4 p.m. two days before the end of school for students. The second application period extends from two days before the end of school through 8:30 a.m. on the first day of school in August.

Children attending a prekindergarten program in their school attendance area may ride the school bus to and from prekindergarten. Parents of children living outside the school attendance area must provide transportation for their child if he or she is accepted. If transportation problems interfere with regular attendance or with a child being picked up on time, the child may not continue in the program.

For more information or for help in completing the prekindergarten application, contact an elementary school with a prekindergarten site, the Office of Early childhood at 410-638-3981 or Diana Wehage, early childhood teacher specialist, at 410-612-1751.

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