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Beneficial Pre-K access luck of the draw

MACON, Ga. -- Next school year is still a few months away, but now is the time to start weighing your child's options.

WGXA's Emily Swecker gives us a look at what avenues you can take to make sure your child is well-prepared before entering kindergarten.

Registration for Georgia's Pre-K Program is underway, but what are the benefits of early education?

Right now Georgia's Pre-K Program serves over 80,000 kids across the state and is continuing to expand.

Olena Floore, Bibb County's Elementary School Coordinator, said literacy, numeracy, science and social studies are key focus points in academics, but teachers focus on the child's social and emotional development as well.

"They also need to know how to work with peers, how to solve problems, how to be critical thinkers and so we develop that in pre-k," said Floore.

Amy Kinn's daughter, Calla, is currently enrolled in the Pre-K Program at Porter Elementary.

She said it was a huge relief when her daughter received a spot in the classroom instead of having to find a daycare.

"Just being able to be in this school where she’s going to be all the way through fifth grade really makes a difference to me because if she had gone there if would have been sitting in the same room all day long, not changing rooms, not going through the lunch line, things like that," said Kinn.

One thing that makes Georgia's Pre-K Program unique is that it's funded by the lottery, but there is one shortcoming to the system and that’s availability.

Susan Adams, Assistant Commissioner for Pre-K and Early Supports, said the program currently serves about 60 percent of age-eligible children in the state, but that means some parents are forced to find alternative options.

"We do carry a waiting list of around 6,000 kids, kids that their parents have applied for them to go to Georgia Pre-K and we didn't have a slot for them," said Adams.

But while Adams said you want to have access to the program, you also want to have a high quality program and that's why last year they used the 36 million additional dollars they received to supplement lead and assistant teachers' salaries.

"We know that the key part of high quality is the interactions that's going on in that classroom between those teachers and those children and so those funds were specifically put into our budget to support retention well recruitment and retention of those high quality teachers," said Adams.

So what are other early education options?

Susan Mullens, who has six children, said for her family, home school is the best option.

Mullens has children ranging from two to 22, but her second youngest son, Nathan, specifically requires a specialized curriculum.

"I have a special needs child that has hemihypertrophy. His left side develops faster than his right side. He did not learn how to talk until he was four. He was diagnosed with autism. That's him in the background running around and talking now," said Mullens.

She said she chose to home school each of her children for different reasons, but she believes Nathan would have been at a disadvantage in a public school setting.

"He wouldn't be able to do what's important where the brain gets rewired, the running around, the climbing a tree, the being able to explore the world the way he's allowed to because he's home schooled," said Mullens.

Whichever you decide is the best option for your child, local educators say it's important to consider all options based on their individual needs.

If your child will be four years old by September 1 and you're interested in Georgia's Pre-K program, registration for Bibb County ends on February 20.

If homeschooling seems like a better fit, the deadline to submit an online declaration of intent form is September 1.

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