ATHENS, Ala. - Registration has already started for some Pre-K programs across North Alabama. The early deadline could catch some parents off guard. Athens City Schools has two preschool programs housed within Athens Elementary.
The Eagle's Nest, a tuition-based inclusive program that incorporates a mixture of exceptional needs students in a classroom with their traditional peers. The Alabama First Class Pre-K is a tuition-free program partially funded by the state that provides effective, high-quality early childhood experiences that prepare children for school success and lifelong learning.
"So as far as First Class Pre-K and really Eagle's Nest Pre-K where we have here in Athens, the benefit of being in an elementary school is they have the structure of that elementary school day," says Jessica Lynn, Athens City School Exceptional Services Coordinator.
Laurie Viers enrolled her granddaughter in the Athens Pre-K program as soon as she could. She says it makes a difference not just academically, but socially and emotionally.
"It's not just play-time all day like you might get in a daycare center where they just go and play. They're learning, they're having fun. They're learning their alphabet, their numbers. But to me, the most important thing is they're learning those social skills before they begin kindergarten," says Viers.
Lynn says children who aren't enrolled in any kind of Pre-K program can see a disadvantage.
"Because of the rigor of the curriculum in kindergarten, it's very important that parents get their kids involved in these Pre-K programs because they are going to be behind once they start kindergarten if they don't have that strong foundation," says Lynn.
Lynn says parents don't always realize applications are taken this far in advance and it's important to apply early because spots fill up early.
The deadline for the Eagle's Nest Program is March 15 and the deadline for First Class Pre-K is March 26.