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Syracuse City School District encourages kids to enroll in pre-K programs

Jonathan Garcia

The Syracuse City School District is working hard to get the word out about itsfree pre-K program.

SCSD Director of Early Childhood Education Ashley Thompson said pre-K education provides children with critical skills to become ready for kindergarten.

“Having the pre-K experience really gets those foundational skills set in place, so that when they get to kindergarten, they can get right into those kindergarten academic skills and be prepared and ready and already adjusted to the school environment, the structure, the routine,” she said.

In her 20 years with the district’s pre-K program, Thompson has seen it grow dramatically. Now, the district has 1,080 seats, and their partner agencies have more than 800 seats. That’s enough for every pre-K-aged child in the district.

“We are in every neighborhood and quadrant within Syracuse city to really meet those community needs, and a lot of our families have older siblings, so it’s nice for them to be able to be in school together,” said Thompson.

But getting the word out in such a large district can be a challenge. Thompson said staff members use a number of techniques, including posting on social media, distributing flyers, putting up billboards, and creating registration pop-up shops in schools.

Free half and full-day programs are available for three and four-year-olds. Applicants need to turn three by December 1 of the school year they start.

If families are unsure, Thompson encourages them to try it out. There are no penalties if a family chooses to withdraw their child and try again later. She also said the city has instructional coaches who can talk to parents.

“They can talk through, ‘Well, what does pre-K really look like? He’s not potty-trained. I don’t think he’s ready,'” Thompson said. “And we can talk through the supports we have in place within our programs to help them get ready or help them through figuring out, is their child ready? Are they ready?”

Thompson said it’s never too late to register, but the district encourages families to get applications in as soon as possible if they want a specific location.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.