Mayor, Thornton to push to fill pre-K seats

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will lead a canvass Saturday to help parents register for pre-kindergarten seats, particularly ones reserved for underprivileged students that annually go unfilled.

Joined by city schools CEO Gregory Thornton and other volunteers, Rawlings-Blake will begin knocking on doors in the Upton neighborhood at 10:30 a.m. The canvass will begin at a section of McCulloh Homes that feeds students into two elementary schools: Samuel Coleridge Taylor and Furman L. Templeton. 

In an interview, Rawlings-Blake said she believes parents simply need more guidance and information about the benefits of pre-K and how to get their students registered.

"We have many families that need that support," Rawlings-Blake said. "And that's what we have to do, even if it means spending a Saturday knocking on doors."

For the city's most needy students, who have priority for pre-K seats, registration has been most challenging. City officials said that every year, priority seats go unfilled by students they're intended for.

This year there are over 4,500 pre-K seats in the city, and if families are not registered by Aug. 3, students who have free and reduced-price lunch plans, are homeless or receive special education services will lose out. The seats are then open to the rest of the city's applicants.

The Upton neighborhood was one identified as an area in the city where  there is generally under-registration and late registration, city officials said.

Rawlings-Blake pointed to research that shows a quality pre-K program can change the trajectory of a student's educational career. Students are more likely to read and perform at grade level. She said the programs "level the playing field" for students and their peers.

"Our kids need every advantage to achieve over the long haul," Rawlings-Blake said.


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