The school year has started, but Memphis-area parents can still register their kids for preschool

[This article was edited to add comments from Kandace Thomas to High Ground News.]

First 8 Memphis is partnering with Memphis-area pre-K schools to keep registration and enrollment open throughout the 2020-21 school year. 

Children must be 4 years old by August 15 to be eligible. All Tennessee children whose families meet the free or reduced lunch income guidelines qualify for pre-K.

Families can apply for pre-K here.

All of First 8’s pre-K partners provide free education, wraparound services, and family support for those who meet income eligibility requirements. Partner programs will also be providing home learning devices to students in need when health precautions require a virtual classroom.

First 8’s partner programs that offer pre-K instruction include Shelby County Schools, Bartlett City Schools, Millington Municipal Schools, Porter-Leath Pre-K, the Barbara K. Lipman Early Learning and Research Center, Libertas School of Memphis, Cornerstone Prep Denver Campus, Achievement School District, and Perea Preschool.

Why should parents enroll their children in pre-K?

“Pre-K is often a child’s first experience in school or in group care and can set the stage for a child’s long-term educational experience,” Kandace Thomas, executive director of First 8 Memphis in a press release.

“We’ve been trained to think education starts at kindergarten, but research shows, and many families know, that children begin learning much earlier, in fact prenatally."

Thomas went on to say that some pre-K programs are online this year, but even virtual schools build necessary skills and can provide other support.

"Our goal is that students will learn the same skills virtually as they would in-person," Thomas told High Ground News. "The ultimate goal of pre-K is to get the student kindergarten ready."

Thomas said "kindergarten readiness" is a lofty term with no set definition, but for First 8 it means having the social and emotional skills needed to navigate school. 

"We want children to learn how to regulate their emotions, follow through on difficult tasks, and be able to listen to a teacher and follow their directions," she said. "We also hope they have the building blocks for reading and math."

Thomas also told High Ground that there are approximately 12,000 four-year-olds in the county any given year. Last year, roughly 65% of them attended free pre-K. The rest were either ineligible due to income or were eligible but did not enroll.

First 8 Memphis is a public-private partnership that’s goal is to promote high-quality early education for children ages 0-8 in Memphis and Shelby County. The program integrates the area's independent early education systems into a more cohesive network of partnerships.

Those systems include early childcare, pre-K schooling, K-3 literacy support, and in-home visitations to help whole families learn how best to support a child’s early development.

To contact First 8 Memphis, call (901) 563-5921 or email [email protected]

Read more articles by Cole Bradley.

Cole Bradley is a native Memphian and graduate of the University of Memphis. Cole's worked locally as a researcher and community engagement strategist and began contributing to High Ground in Jan 2017.