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NC Pre-K application deadline extended until July 17

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Smart Start Rowan, which manages the state-funded N.C. Pre-K seats in the county, has extended its application process until Friday.

Smart Start Director of Programs Laura Villegas said the applications opened in February; this is the third round. She said the rate at which families enroll varies, but COVID-19 has probably created some delay.

Families can submit applications via email, fax or by putting them in the organization’s drop box. N.C. Pre-K is a free program for families that meet certain criteria. There are several ways to qualify, including falling below a certain income threshold or military service. Typically, there are about 350 enrollees in the county.

Villegas said it gives children the opportunity to have a quality early childhood experience before they enter kindergarten including social, early literacy and math skills.

“I always really feel the socialization is a big piece, because if a child is not able to sit to listen to a story and to follow instruction from the teacher, they’re going to have challenges when they go on to kindergarten and the early primary grades,” Villegas said.

Some kids have not had any preschool experience, and pre-K can help fill that void for young students.

Villegas said there will still possibly be openings after July 17, and Smart Start will continue to fill slots if it needs to, but it needs to know where it stands in terms of funding. Villegas said she would encourage families to apply, because it does not hurt to do so; they may qualify. Some families may qualify after suffering hardship due to COVID-19.

“Now is a great opportunity to go ahead and apply and have access to this great program,” Villegas said.

Smart Start Rowan Executive Director Amy Brown said there are typically enough applications to fill the slots. Smart Start also keeps a running waiting list as students move and drop throughout the year. At this point Smart Start has about 75% of its slots filled, and the organization wants families to be aware of the opportunity so it can utilize the funding for them.

Brown noted the organization does not know what the beginning of school will look like yet, pending a decision from Gov. Roy Cooper. So, it is continuing registration as normal. Brown said the state of the pandemic is worrisome and the organization wants everything to be as normal as possible for the students, but the funding has already been allocated so there are no concerns in that area.

Families interested in taking advantage of N.C. Pre-K can visit rowan-smartstart.org/nc-pre-k/ for information on qualifying and applying.

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