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Officials urge parents to apply early for ‘On My Way’ Pre-K

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Families can now apply for a spot in what’s now the second round of free  Pre-K.

The state started the “On My Way” Pre-K program last year, because they say it will get children an even earlier start. Parents have until March 25 to apply for the chance to send their child to pre-K for free.

The state will award 2,300 grants for the upcoming school year, starting in August.

“If the demand exceeds the number of grants that are available, so at that point, we’ll use a random selection process to select which students will receive grants and then families will be notified the first week of April whether or not they’ve received a grant.  So the most important thing to know is get your application in now,” said Melanie Brizzi, with the Family and Social Services Administration.

Right now the pilot program is only open to people in five Indiana counties. The goal is to give disadvantaged children high quality, early education to make sure they’re ready for kindergarten and the grades beyond.

The On My Way Pre-K program started in January of last year. If it’s successful, lawmakers could decide to expand it to other areas of the state. Students are currently in the middle of the first full year of classes. Once those students start kindergarten in the fall, the state will be able to see if the program better prepared them for K-5.

“We’re looking at the results on an ongoing basis — at the program quality and child outcomes, and we will continue to do so. We’ll continue to serve children in these five county areas as long as we have the funding to do so. Right now we have the funding through two more years. And at that point we’ll have to see what happens,” said Brizzi.

Organizers say this is part of a comprehensive plan, to help educate kids while cutting down on crime in the long run.

“There’s significant research that’s been done across the country that shows early education programs help set that framework for future success. Not just in academic achievements, but in graduation rates and reducing the juvenile crime rate as well,” said Brizzi.

In order to apply, families must live in Marion, Allen, Jackson, Lake or  Vanderburgh County. Families also must meet an income requirement. The child must be 4 years old by August 1, 2016, unless you live in Marion County. The city of Indianapolis partnering with the state for the program, so Marion County children can be three years old. Organizers said parents should apply as early as possible.

Parents will be able to pick where their child goes to pre-school, as long as it’s an eligible school. They also can decide if their child goes full or part-time.

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