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Newton Pre-K registration opens at end of March

COVINGTON - Parents and guardians who want their 4-year-olds to attend a Newton County School System prekindergarten class can register their child in the NCSS Pre-K lottery beginning March 24.

NCSS will open its prekindergarten registration for the 2008-09 school year at noon March 24, and it will continue until 4 p.m. March 28.

Registration offices, located at 8134 Geiger St. in Covington, will be open from noon to 7 p.m. March 24 and 27 and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 25, 26 and 28.

All new prekindergarten students in the district must be registered before they can attend classes. Prospective Pre-K students must turn 4 years old by Sept. 1.

The NCSS Pre-K program is part of Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, which monitors enrollment in the program and quality of the services provided and is free to all eligible students.

Space in the NCSS program is limited to 480 slots - two classrooms at each of the 12 NCSS elementary schools with 20 students in each class - at this time.

Stephanie Hart, director of Pre-K for NCSS, said the school system has applied with Bright from the Start for a Pre-K program at South Salem Elementary School, which is scheduled to open in time for the 2008-09 school year, but there is no guarantee they will get it approved, so they cannot count on it at this time. If approved, 40 more slots at that school will open.

Parents or court-ordered guardians are the only ones who can register children for school.

"If the child does not live with one or both parents, guardianship or custody documents must be presented" at registration, according to a Pre-K registration flier from NCSS.

At registration, parents must present their child's Social Security card and certified birth certificate.

They also need two medical forms from their pediatrician's office or the health department: Immunization Record Form 3231 and Eye, Ear, Dental Screening Form 3300.

Hart said it is acceptable if the child is medically up-to-date as of the day the parent comes in to register a child and must be up-to-date before starting school in September.

"A nurse will be at registration to look at medical forms, and if their doctor wants to write a statement saying they have an appointment, that's fine, too," Hart said. "We want as many up-to-date forms as possible; we don't want those registered in September not to be up to date."

Parents or guardians registering their child also must present two proofs of residency: an electric, gas or water bill in the name of the person enrolling the child and a mortgage contract or lease agreement, according to a press release from NCSS.

Hart said the registration process itself only takes a few minutes.

"It doesn't take a lot of time for registration unless parents don't have what they need," she said. "They have a five-page packet that they can get before registration at the schools and have it ready. They can also make copies of the documents themselves if they want to speed up the process. We have an express line for those who have completed the packet."

She suggests to cut down on long wait lines during registration that parents try to come in during the week, rather than all on the first day.

"They don't all have to come in the first day; the first day is a very long process from what I'm told," said Hart, who is serving in her position for the first year. "A person coming in Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. has the same chance (to get into a Pre-K class) as one who gets there at 6 o'clock in the morning to wait on the first day."

Once registration week is over, NCSS will hold a lottery drawing for those who registered.

Only students with completed registration packets as of 4 p.m. March 28 will be eligible for participation in the school system's lottery selection process, according to a press release from NCSS. Pre-K enrollment is determined by school attendance zones; therefore, the first 40 student names drawn from each school's attendance zone will be enrolled in the 2008-09 Newton County School System Pre-K Program.

The school system will hold the publicized lottery drawing in which they use numbers, not student names, sometime during the spring at the Newton County Board of Education building. All registered families will be notified within a month to six weeks after the drawing as to whether they were chosen for the program.

Those not chosen will be placed on a waiting list and called if and when spaces become available.

Hart said NCSS chose to use the lottery system because the county contains "far more" interested students than it has slots available.

"By using the lottery, everybody who is eligible has a chance to be in the program," she said.

Last year, she said 720 students were registered for 480 slots, putting 240 students on the waiting list.

She said some students who were on the waiting list last year were called to be in the Pre-K program, some in January or later.

Anyone unable to attend registration or those families who move into the NCSS school system after the school year has started can have their child's name added to the end of the Pre-K waiting list if they choose. Newton County 4-year-olds not enrolled in the NCSS Pre-K program can attend a private Pre-K program as an alternate.

Anyone with questions about NCSS Pre-K registration should call the NCSS Pre-K program at 770-787-1330, ext. 1268.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: At a glance

What: Newton County School System 2008-09 Prekindergarten Registration

Who: Newton County students who will turn 4 years old by Sept. 1

When:

· Noon to 7 p.m. March 24

· 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 25

· 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 26

· Noon to 7 p.m. March 27

· 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 28

Where: Cousins Community Building Cafeteria, 8134 Geiger St.

More Information: Newton County School System, 770-787-1330, ext. 1268 or www.newtoncountyschools.org

Registration documents:

· Student's certified birth certificate

· Student's Social Security card

· Immunization Record Form 3231

· Eye, Ear, Dental Screening Form 3300

· Two proofs of address: electric, gas or water bill and mortgage contract or lease agreement

· Proof of guardianship or custody if person enrolling child is not the birth parent