(Media release from the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning):

School bells are ringing for the state’s youngest learners as Georgia’s Pre-K Program begins the new school year. The first day of Georgia’s Pre-K Program will vary based on school system and child care provider. It started as early as July 27, in Taliaferro County and will start as late as the week of September 6, in Murray and Wheeler counties. Most Georgia school systems begin classes during the first two weeks of August.

“Research shows that the early education of children from birth to age five is critical to their success in kindergarten and elementary school,” said Amy M. Jacobs, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, the state agency that administers the program. “We believe laying a solid foundation for academic and social emotional success in our youngest learners is also important for the long-term economic growth of Georgia by helping to build a competent and qualified workforce.”

“Starting school is an exciting time for children and families and is also a time when learning and education become more formalized,” said Susan Adams, Deputy Commissioner for Georgia’s Pre-K Program and Instructional Supports. “Starting school is a big step, and we are honored to provide the first quality formal education experience for many children in Georgia.”

For families enrolling their children in Georgia’s Pre-K Program, Adams offered the following helpful tips to make the first day go smoother:

  • Send your child to school in clothes they can manage independently in the bathroom.
  • Make sure your child’s shoes are comfortable and safe for playtime.
  •  Choose close-toed shoes that children can fasten independently such as tennis shoes with Velcro.
  • Visit the classroom before school starts, so children are familiar with the new surroundings.
  • Tell your child’s teacher about any fears she/he may have.
  • Discuss any special dietary needs or allergies your child may have with the teacher and askher/him to explain program policies relating to children’s allergies.
  • Complete necessary forms or releases your Pre-K provider may require for dispensing medication during the school day.
  • Locate the bathroom with your child and determine special bathroom routines the school observes.
  • Allow extra time for the first day: Make sure you have time to say good-bye.
  • Ask if your child can bring a familiar blanket for rest time: Can they bring a favorite stuffed animal?
  • Send a family photo in your child’s backpack in case they get lonely.

Georgia’s Pre-K Program began in 1992 as a pilot program serving 750 at-risk four year olds at 20 locations. Because of the success of the Georgia Lottery, in 1995 the Pre-K program was opened to all four-year-old children regardless of family income. The program has been consistently ranked one of the top state programs in the nation by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) based on quality standards, teacher qualifications and enrollment