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Director of PHLpreK Julie Beamon works with a student during a visit to one of the over 80 school centers that participate in the universal pre-K program. Photo courtesy of the City of Philadelphia. 

Enrollment open for the city’s free, universal pre-K program

The PHLpreK program from the Mayor’s Office of Education will have 1,200 seats open for this upcoming school year, available in over 80 centers across the city.

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The enrollment for the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Education universal pre-K program is currently open for the 2018-2019 school year.

The program, launched in Jan. 2017, provides families who reside in Philadelphia the option of enrolling their children aged three or four in pre-K programs at more than 80 providers throughout the city at no cost.

"Access to quality pre-K can really be a gamechanger in a child's life," said Julie Beamon, director of PHLprek for the Mayor’s Office of Education. Beamon explained that it can serve as "a stepping stone for putting them on the right path to an educational career."

Beamon noted that though the early literacy and numeracy skills that children gain in preK are essential to help prepare them for kindergarten and grade school, the social component is also an important piece of their social development.

"It's not always about the ABCs and 123s, it's about the social and emotional piece, too,” Beamon said, adding that skills such as sharing, listening, and becoming accustomed to a routine are all important for young children before they enter kindergarten.

The program has 1,200 seats available for the upcoming school year, beginning in Sept. 2018. Parents and guardians interested in registering their children for the program can call 844) PHL-PREK (844-745-7735) to speak to someone in English or Spanish. They can also visit the PHLpreK website to find a list of programs and providers.

Beamon stressed that the program’s only requirement is that the family lives in Philadelphia and the child is three or four years old as of Sept. 1, 2018. Enrollment will be open as long as spots are available.

Beamon said that many of the providers the program works with are located in “high-need” areas, where children living in those communities are experiencing two or more risk factors, such as the likelihood of having had exposure to lead, having been born prematurely, or having been born to a teen mom, among others.

The providers were also chosen on the basis of areas where there was a high need for quality Pre-K. In some communities, PHLprek has worked with the providers that were already in the community “to help bring them up in quality,” said Beamon — an improvement that has been achieved by 32 providers since the city first began the program in Jan. 2017.

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