Smart Start program seeks more kids for pre-K

Jun. 17, 2014 @ 02:21 PM

There must be hundreds of pre-school-age children in Caldwell County who are eligible for the state’s pre-kindergarten program but whose parents have not applied, local organizers say.

There are 115 applicants for the 149 NC Pre-K slots available, but Teresa Branch, executive director of Smart Start of Caldwell County, wants many more to apply because if there are more applicants, more slots could be opened.

“We’re still hoping to get the word out because there’s always the opportunity to get more slots,” Branch said. “The only way to have more slots for your county is to have more active applicants.”

She stressed that the program provides cognitive development opportunities that cannot be found elsewhere.

“We’ve got 2,000 days from a time a child is born to get them ready for kindergarten,” Branch said. “A significant amount of brain development happens during that time, and if you lose those opportunities, if you lose that time and aren’t getting those engaging opportunities for children, you lose.”

Branch estimated that each year there are about 1,000 children in Caldwell County who are the right age for pre-K classes, which help the children be prepared for kindergarten. Branch believed that at least 500-600 kids are eligible for NC Pre-K, which means that between 300-400 families have not applied.

Currently, there are nine NC Pre-K sites in the county, and four additional sites were recently approved by the Smart Start board of directors, Branch said. Applicants must be 4-years-old by Aug. 31 and either fall below a certain household income level, have a parent on active military status or have disabilities.