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Sign-ups for pre-K begin in late April

COVINGTON - Rockdale County parents have about one month to get paperwork in order if they want their 4-year-old to attend prekindergarten in a Rockdale County public classroom.

Parents can register their child in the RCPS pre-K lottery beginning April 21.

Rockdale County Public Schools will open its pre-K registration for the 2008-09 school year at 7:30 a.m. April 21; it will remain open until 3:30 p.m. May 2.

Registration offices, located at 1143 West Ave., will be open during normal business hours - 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday - during that time.

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

The RCPS pre-K program is part of Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, which monitors the quality and enrollment of the program. It is free to all registered students.

Space in the RCPS program is limited to 140 slots, which represents one class at seven schools: C.J. Hicks, Flat Shoals, J.H. House, Peek's Chapel, Pine Street and Shoal Creek elementary schools, as well as the Rockdale Career Academy.

The program at Rockdale Career Academy is open to students from all Rockdale school districts - usually those with no pre-K program - but parents must provide their own transportation for the children.

Leslie DeMarco, director of curriculum services for RCPS, said the school system has applied for additional programs at other schools in the district, but won't know if any are approved until June.

She said if any schools are awarded new programs, her department will choose families on the waiting list for that school first.

"All of those (families) interested should apply" no matter their school district, DeMarco said.

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

At registration, parents must submit their child's Social Security number 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.

DeMarco said prospective students must be medically up to date.

Those registering also need to bring two proofs of residency, including a utility bill and lease agreement or automobile registration.

DeMarco said those who have all of their paperwork ready on the day they attend registration should only have to spend 10 to 15 minutes of their time filling out paperwork and submitting it, depending on the wait time.

She said it is not imperative that parents sign up the first day registration is open.

"It's not first come, first serve; it's randomly selected," she said about Rockdale's pre-K program. "We have a lottery because it makes life easier on everybody and they don't have to spend the night camping out."

RCPS will hold the lottery drawing at 9 a.m. May 6 for those who registered on time.

The lottery drawing is determined by attendance zones.

Every registrant is drawn, and those placed on the waiting list are placed in the order they are drawn.

"We notify those who are selected by phone and letter. By the next day, we will post a list at the schools; within a week, they will be notified by phone," DeMarco said. "Letters will take a couple of weeks. We also send a letter to those not selected, so they will know they are on the waiting list if they want to be."

She said it is important for those who were selected to be in the program to return to registration by May 30 in person to complete the registration process.

"They have to physically come in. We already have their paperwork, so they don't have to do much, but they are not enrolled until then," DeMarco said.

Those who are put on the waiting list will be called as spaces become available, so DeMarco encouraged those who register to update their contact information whenever it changes.

"We have to fill the slots quickly," DeMarco said. "We can't wait to mail a letter and hear back from them."

She said sometimes slots come open as late in the school year as January or beyond.

"A little pre-K is better than no pre-K," she said.

Those who aren't selected for the RCPS pre-K program can attend a private pre-K, some of which are Bright from the Start programs, and most charge fees for meals, transportation and other services. A list of pre-K programs in the area can be found at www.decal.state.ga.us.

Anyone with questions about the RCPS pre-K registration process should contact DeMarco by calling 770-860-4224.

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