More local parents than ever before have expressed interest this year for state-awarded preschool scholarships, said Sarah Hepworth, director of the Early Childhood Center.
Almost all scholarships for the Colorado Preschool Program have been awarded this year for the program that offers preschool grants to children aged three to five who lack overall learning readiness because of significant family risk factors.
This year, only 64 scholarship opportunities were offered to local families because of state budget cuts. Last year, 75 scholarships were awarded locally.
Unfortunately, this year saw an increase in 80 families applying for the preschool assistance, Hepworth said.
"In the past we haven't had enough to fill the available spots," she said. "Obviously, the word is getting out."
In order to qualify for the preschool scholarship program, a child must be at least three years old and participate in a screening process. Qualifying children may include those who have been homeless, born to teenage or single parents or born to a family with a history of drug abuse or have other extenuating circumstances.
Other children who may qualify for the program might have low self-esteem issues, have been born to a family with a history of learning problems or a child with poor social skills.
Parents with children who qualify for the program have their choice of three Moffat County School District preschools -- Sunrise Kids, St. Mark's Preschool or the Early Childhood Learning Center.
Roughly 200 children attend the three district preschools, Hepworth said, and, according to the waiting lists, at least another 50 students could be accepted into the program if there was more space.
The increase of applicants for the scholarship program may be attributed to a declining economy, Hepworth said.
"I think more parents are going for the scholarship because they're financially strapped," she said.
Also, parents are learning about the value of children receiving
the school experience at an earlier age.
According to the Colorado General Assembly, research has shown that children participating in quality early education tend to be more successful later in school, show higher intellectual and verbal development and are more competent socially and emotionally.
It's not too early for parents interested in applying for the preschool scholarship next year. The process takes about 5 minutes to fill out forms, which are kept confidential.
The last of this year's scholarships are still being awarded, Hepworth said.
The first wave of scholarships will be awarded next June and the second phase in August.
Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or email@example.com.