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More demand than spots for pre-K at most Gainesville schools
03262018 SCHOOLS 1
New Holland Knowledge Academy pre-K students use foam boards to construct a house as teacher Abigail Lopez watches Friday, March 23, 2018. The Gainesville City School System Board of Education gave its OK to plans to expand pre-K to all elementary schools beginning this fall. - photo by Scott Rogers

The expansion of pre-kindergarten to all six elementary schools in the Gainesville City School System beginning this fall has driven more demand than there is space available at most schools.

Previously, New Holland and Mundy Mill were the only sites in the school system that offered pre-K. The system this year decided to offer classes at each school, though the total number of classes will remain at 10.

A lottery signup was held between Feb. 26 and March 7, with 239 families entering.

But the school system only has space for 218 students.

2018-19 pre-K enrollment

                 Spaces    Available Waiting list

Centennial       44        1              0

Enota               42        0              4

Fair Street       22        0              13

Gainesville       44        8              0

Mundy Mill       44        0              13

New Holland      22        0              10

Total               218        9              40

According to Donna Allen, director of pre-K services, the enrollment cap next year is commensurate with the current year’s total.

“This certainly demonstrates the opportunity for our GCSS pre-K program to grow and expand in the near future,” Allen said. “Our goal is to eventually increase our class offerings from 10 to a total of 12 over the next two years. With continued development in the Mundy Mill attendance zone, we may get approved to expand sooner than our goal timeline.”

At Mundy Mill, for example, there are 13 on a waiting list for the pre-K. There are also 13 on the waiting list at Fair Street. Another 10 are waiting for New Holland, and four are waiting for Enota.

“GCSS will continue to monitor the waiting lists for schools who have reached capacity,” Allen said. “Although we do not wish to see parents leave, we have already seen some families, through natural attrition such as moving out of district, withdraw their children from registration.  When this happens, space becomes available, and we can quickly go to the waiting list to offer that opportunity to the next family awaiting a space.”

Meanwhile, two schools do have space available: eight pre-K slots at Gainesville and one at Centennial are open.

Working in partnership with the Gainesville Housing Authority, the school system was able to identify 21 families with eligible 4-year-olds living in public housing units across the city to sign up for the lottery.

“Without (this) program, some of the families might not have the opportunity to enroll in other child care services without incurring a fee,” Allen said.

Maria Calkins, residential services coordinator with the Gainesville Housing Authority, said the partnership with the school system is valuable and that the two organizations work together regularly through after-school programming and summer programming that aligns with the system’s goals and curriculum.

“Children are given the support and resources they need to attend school ready to learn so they can graduate from high school, have access to college, technical school or job training, and become socially and economically self-sufficient adults,” Calkins added. “Pre-K is a great way to get our (Housing Authority) children learning at an early age.”

03262018 SCHOOLS 3
New Holland Knowledge Academy pre-K teacher Abigail Lopez works with students Friday, March 23, 2018. The Gainesville City School System Board of Education gave its OK to plans to expand pre-K to all elementary schools beginning this fall. - photo by Scott Rogers
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