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Boquet: Pre-kindergarten gives St. John children head start

It’s registration time for pre-kindergarten students.

The Early Childhood Community Network has begun accepting applications for its pre-k programs. The network is a community partnership unifying childcare programs under the leadership of the St. John the Baptist Parish Public School District.

The school district oversees curriculum, teacher observations, assessments and other resources at participating facilities, in addition to its own early childhood education programs at the St. John Child Development Center and elementary schools.

Participating childcare centers are Garden of Eden, Little Leaders, Divine Hands, Children of God, Kids of Distinction, Wells Wallace and Terence Day Care.

Spots are available for children ranging from infant through 4 years old.

Parents can find applications on the school district’s website at stjohn.k12.la.us or at the St. John Child Development Center at 117 Stebbins St. in Garyville, where staff members will be available to help parents fill out the forms.

Parents should fill out the unified application as well as either a 4- or 3-year-old application, whichever applies. You will be able to indicate your preferred childcare center on the application.

For pre-k, students must be 4 years old by Sept. 30.

Seats are available regardless of income. For those who qualify, financial assistance may be available for eligible families through the Louisiana Department of Education Child Care Assistance Program.

Families who meet the federal income guidelines or special needs requirements for the Head Start program will need to provide verification documentation.

Current family income information, along with a copy of the child’s birth certificate, Social Security card, immunization record and proof of residency must accompany the application.

Other items needed, if applicable, are proof of income, Social Security benefits award letter or check, U.S. entry papers, food stamp print out sheet, documentation of a disability and child’s health insurance/Medicaid/LaChip card.

If a parent is in school, verification from the school he or she is attending is required.

Tuition-free seats for 4-year-olds are also available at Emily C. Watkins Elementary, Fifth Ward Elementary, Lake Pontchartrain Elementary, the St. John Child Development Center and West St. John Elementary.

Any parent knows that children at these ages are sponges, soaking up everything and anything around them, and so it’s important to give them the head start they need.

It makes sense that children who are enrolled in early childhood programs are better prepared academically and enter kindergarten with the skills they need to succeed.

However, early childhood programs also help children build social skills, concentration, confidence and can help them develop a lifelong love of learning.

There is no deadline to apply but parents are encouraged to apply early as slots will fill up quickly.

Parents with questions can call the St. John Child Development Center at 985-535-3917.

Jennifer Boquet is the communications specialist for St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools. Email her at jboquet@stjohn.k12.la.us.