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Pre-K demand grows

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April 1, 2008

Lee County --    Last year, the program served more than 75,000 students. In Lee County they've added classes to keep up with the demand.

Now the state legislature is working on a budget that could add 1,000 new pre-kindergarten seats. School leaders who say those seats are needed, but so is more space.

Likely you remember the images just two weeks ago of Lee County parents sleeping out overnight to guarantee their children a spot in pre-K. Now, Dougherty County's pre-K is also feeling the pinch.

 "At this stage we are just over 170 applicants and we started the first part of January in the registration process so we're about 30 slots away from being full at this point in time," says Dougherty Pre-K Resource Coordinator Carlton Hollis.

It's a fact, that children who attend pre-K have a leg up when they start Kindergarten.

 "There are a lot of studies that show the gains that the children make in Pre-K will take them two to three grade levels into their education so it's a boost that you don't see from a child who does not get the Pre-K education," says Lee County Pre-K Director Adrienne Hamlin. 

The proposed state budget includes money for a thousand new students. Schools say that is needed, because so many parents want to take advantage of the program.

"There's one good incentive in that there's no cost for the program," said Hollis.

Like the Lee County Director told us two weeks ago, not only is it more students, it's a space issue.  "Right now we are actually out of classroom space," says Hamlin.

So is Dougherty County, making it nearly impossible to add more students even though the demand continues to rise. Until space issues can be fixed classes will remain full and they'll continue educating pre-schoolers as best they can.

"Children will learn the alphabet, they'll start learning how to write their names, believe it or not we have some students who are actually reading," said Hollis.

In Dougherty County's state report card, they exceeded the state's goals for students in nine of the eleven categories. The school expects more parents to begin signing their kids up for pre-school now that spring break is over.

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