August 29, 2008

Wanted: Many More 4-Year-Olds

By stacey becker

Free preschool conditions 3 The child must be 4 years old on Sept. 15. 3 The child must be a resident of Iowa. 3 The child must take an assessment test that will help direct instruction. 3 The child will receive 10 hours of free preschool instruction each week; there will be additional wrap-around charges and application fees. News You can use Parents may call their preferred preschool to learn if it offers free preschool for 4-year-olds, or parents may call the local Child Care Resource and Referral office at 563-557-1628 for a complete list of the remaining preschools with opened spaces.They are still on the hunt for nearly 200 more 4-year-olds.While numerous parents have taken advantage of the free 4-year-old preschool for their children, there are still many more who have not."We want to find every 4-year-old who wants free preschool," said Lynne Devaney, associate superintendent with the Dubuque Community School District.The 10-hour-per-week free preschool was made possible when the school district received funds under the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program for 4-Year-Old Children.The district applied for a grant that would allow nearly 850 students to enroll. As of this week, about 650 spots have been filled.The "free" part only applies to the instruction by a certified preschool teacher. It does not apply to wrap-around care or application fees.The only children who will receive that free instruction, however, are those who are 4 years old on Sept. 15. Once those children are accepted, they are accepted for the year.However, those children could potentially be removed or their parents might be forced to pay tuition if it is discovered that the child's birth date was misrepresented. Devaney said each of the accepted applications will be double-checked to ensure the students were 4 on Sept. 15 and that they are Iowa residents.While some of the preschools started their free instruction this week, others will start next week after Labor Day. All of the preschools are focused on Sept. 15.The first count of 4- year-olds in the program will occur on that date. The count will determine the amount of funding the district will receive for preschool this year.Another count will happen on Oct. 1, which will determine the amount of preschool funding next year."It's the most important because it sets the baseline for next year," Devaney said.Those deadlines have increased the efforts of Devaney and the community preschool partners to find every 4-year-old in the area.Although the district and the community preschool partners have used many methods to announce the program, there are still parents who don't completely understand it."For the most part, (parents) don't believe it's free," said Nicole Stark, director of Frog Hollow on Locust Street.The disbelief of some parents caught Devaney by surprise.She said there were even some parents who were prepared to pay their 4-year-old's fees when some of the schools opened this week."They don't believe us," she said. "It comes up time and again, over and over."Devaney was the one in disbelief when she discovered one parent had tried to enroll his or her child in a morning preschool at one center and an afternoon preschool at another"You can't double-dip," Devaney said.The newest preschool, Hills & Dales Child Care Center, still has almost every one of the 30 spots open.Teri Deutmeyer, director of the center that opened two weeks ago, said she was optimistic that the spots for free preschool will be filled.While there have been some bumps in the road, many of the preschool directors said they are excited about the program and what it means for children."Things really have gone very smoothly here," said Tina Nauman, director of the Grand View Preschool and Child Development Center. "It has been wholeheartedly embraced by families."

Originally published by stacey becker TH staff writer/[email protected]

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