Pre-Kindergarten in Cumberland County.

About NC Pre-K

The NC Pre-Kindergarten Program is a program of the Division of Child Development and Early Education in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

 The NC Pre-K Program is designed to provide high-quality educational experiences to enhance school readiness for eligible four-year-old. The program requirements are built on the premise that to be successful academically in school, children need to be prepared in all five of the development domains outlined by the National Education Goals Panel. Each of these domains is critical to children’s well-being and success in reading and math as they come to school. The five domains, as reflected in Foundations: Early Learning Standards for North Carolina Preschoolers and Strategies for Guiding Their Success, are:

  • Approaches to learning
  • Emotional and social development
  • Health and physical development
  • Language development and communication
  • Cognitive development

The NC Pre-K Program Requirements are designed to ensure that a high-quality pre-kindergarten classroom experience is provided for eligible four-year-old children in each local NC Pre-K Program and that, to the extent possible, uniformity exists across the state. Programs are also required to meet the NC Child Care Rules.  North Carolina is one of four states with a Pre-K program that meets all 10 National Institute of Early Education Research Benchmarks (NIEER).  Benchmarks include comprehensive Early Learning Standards; staff meet education/licensure requirements, professional development; 1:9 staff/child ratio; developmental screens and referral; evidence-based curriculum and formative assessments; monitoring and nutritional requirements.

  • Your child must be four-years-old on or before August 31st of the program year
    • For 2023-2024, the child’s birthday must be between September 1, 2018 – August 31, 2019
    • For 2024-2025 school year, the child’s birthday must be between September 1, 2019 – August 31, 2020.
  • Also meet one or more of the requirements.
    • The child is from a family whose gross income is at or below 75% of the State Median Income (SMI).
    • Children of certain military families are also eligible without regard to income.
    • Documented risk factors in specific categories, including developmental disability, limited English proficiency, educational need, chronic health condition, or children and family, are identified as homeless.

Decades of research have shown that pre-kindergarten makes a difference in children's school readiness.  Not just in the short term to get children to read to succeed in school but also as children grow up, become employed, and contribute to the economy's strength. Your child's participation in NC Pre-K will help them develop several skills to prepare for kindergarten.  Your child will gain pre-literacy and pre-academic skills in addition to learning to follow instructions, persevere through complex tasks, engage with other students, and demonstrate confidence in their abilities.

Both NC Pre-K, CCS Title I, and Head Start aim to give eligible four-year-old children excellent educational experiences that will improve their preparedness for school.

  • NC Pre-K: A household must make less than 75% of the state median income to qualify for NC Pre-K. If a child has other identified risk factors, regardless of their financial status, they may qualify for NC Pre-K.
  • CCS Title I: Children interested in CCS Title I are given a set of tasks to complete and are asked a series of questions using ASQ-3 development screening. Exam results determine whether or not children are accepted.
  • Head Start: Eligibility for Head Start is based on the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines, which are updated each year by the Census Bureau. Head Start families’ income may not exceed the poverty line. However, programs are allowed to accept a limited number of families that earn more than the guidelines allow.

  • NC Pre-K is free to eligible students.
  • NC Pre-K curriculum, teachers, and classrooms adhere to high-quality standards.
  • The kindergarten experience is introduced to students in NC Pre-K classes.
  • Teacher-to-child ratios in NC Pre-K schools are low.
  • Through parent conferences and family engagements, NC Pre-K connects with families.
  • NC Pre-K serves children previously unmet by the education community.

NC Pre-K is offered free of charge and is fully funded.  The only fees that may be charged to families for services are the following:

  • Meals: cover the partial or total costs of meals when families do not qualify for free or reduced meals. When you register your child at the assigned school, you may need to apply for free/reduced lunch.
  • Wraparound Care: Families may also be charged the cost of wraparound services provided before or after the regular school day, during holidays, or during the summer months, if needed and available.
  • Transportation: some individual centers may provide transportation, in which case fees may apply.
  • Late Fees: it is also at the center's discretion to charge late fees for families that repeatedly arrive late to pick up their children.

Application Season

2024-2025 NC Pre-K Application will be available on January 17, 2024.

Don't worry! You can submit your application at any time. We welcome applications year-round and match children with available spots until May 1.

NC Pre-K typically has a staggered entrance schedule starting in late August. Additionally, Cumberland County Schools conduct home visits at the beginning of the school year.

  • We need to determine the number of students we will be teaching in order to schedule appropriate classes and hire the best teachers.
  • Applying now and submitting a complete application packet will help the NC Pre-K office place your child at a location that suits your family's needs.
  • Early application also allows the center to easily reach out to you and provide the necessary paperwork for a smoother transition in August.
  • Each class can accommodate a maximum of eighteen students. If the classrooms reach full capacity, families will be offered an alternative placement.

How to Apply for NC Pre-K

Before starting the application procedure, it is advised that you have all the necessary information and supporting documents ready. Using a computer or smartphone to do the online application is the most convenient option once you have the required paperwork.

What You Will Need:

  • Proof of Birthdate
  • Proof of Residency (CCS centers only)
  • Proof of Income
  • Documentation of risk factors (if applicable )
    • chronic health condition
    • parent’s military service
    • development or educational needs
    • Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Fill out the application in its entirety and submit copies of all the required documents that are indicated on it.  Ensure all fields are filled out, sign, and date the application. Apply online at www.letsgetenrolled.com.

No child is guaranteed a slot in the NC Pre-K program; however, Partnership for Children maintains a waiting list for applicants so that children can be served in the order of priority.

  • The allocation of slots to counties is contingent upon funding and differs yearly.
  • It is possible that there will be more applications than available slots.
  • A center’s capacity might not be able to accommodate as many applicants as it does.
  • Children who have never attended childcare are given priority.

Application Process

Visit www.letsgetenrolled.com to submit an online application for NC Pre-K.

To process each child's application, NC Pre-K must adhere to local, state, and federal regulations. NC Pre-K is required by these rules to gather the requested information, which includes some personal information. In light of this, it is crucial that you adhere to the application guidelines and provide the data that is specified on the checklist for your child's application. We cannot process your application, and it will be deemed incomplete without the requested information. Applications that are not complete will not be accepted into the program.

Ensure you complete the section on the application asking you to sign a statement under "Zero Income."

Once your child’s application has been completed and submitted and the required documents received, the Partnership for Children staff will process the application for eligibility. The applications are then sorted based on the priority for placement beginning in April.  If contacted by NC Pre-K staff for missing documents, please provide paperwork quickly so your child’s application can be processed.

If your child is eligible for NC Pre-K, the Partnership for Children will place students in participating NC Pre-K centers based on parent choice and center availability.  Due to the number of applications received, not every child can be placed at their desired location. Notifications will be sent to the family via email, phone call, text message, or mail stating which center the child has been accepted to. The family must notify the center as to whether or not they accept the assigned school. Refusal of a school does not necessarily mean you will be immediately assigned a new school. Your child may be placed on a waiting list, pending an opening at your chosen school. Placement will take place starting in late April for private centers.

  • Private Centers: If your child is placed in a private childcare center, you will receive a call or email from your child’s teacher or the center director for center orientation information.  Placement will take place starting in late April for private centers.
  • Cumberland County Schools: If your child is placed in a CCS center, you will receive a letter from Cumberland County Schools Pre-K via letsgetenrolled.com. Placement will take place starting in early May for CCS.
  • Head Start: If your child is placed in a Head Start Center, you will receive a call or email for placement information.
  • Not Eligible: If your child is not eligible (the child is not four years old by August 31st, and the family is not income eligible with no other indication of risk factors), you will be notified by phone or email within a month after application.

Family Size Definitions

Family size includes:

  1. The NC Pre-K child
  2. Parents and stepparents living in the same household
  3. All minor brothers and sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters, stepbrothers and stepsisters living in the same household

NOTE: Minor siblings include anyone up to age 18 and still attending high school at the time the child’s application is submitted.

Additional Clarification:

  • If a child is living with a legal guardian(s) or legal custodian(s), then the family size consists of the NC Pre-K child plus all of the child's minor brothers and sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters, stepbrothers, and stepsisters living in the same household. The adults and children of these adults are also included.
  • If a child is living with foster parent(s) or kinship provider(s), then the family size consists of the NC Pre-K child plus all of the child's minor brothers and sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters, stepbrothers, and stepsisters living in the same household. The adults and children of these adults are NOT included.
  • Incarcerated or institutionalized individuals are not included in family size.

Legal guardianship is awarded by the courts when the biological parent or stepparent no longer has parental rights over the child or the biological parent or stepparent is deceased. Legal custodianship rights are set by the courts and may be as extensive or less extensive as the rights of a legal guardian.

Family size includes the NC Pre-K child plus all of the child’s minor siblings living in the same household. The legal guardian(s)/custodian(s) and their minor children are also included. The income of the legal guardian(s) or custodian(s) and any income received by the child, such as Social Security benefits, would be counted.

Foster parents do not have legal guardianship. Guardianship remains with the Department of Social Services.

For a child in the custody of DSS, the family size includes the NC Pre-K child plus all of the child’s minor siblings living in the same household. Any income received by the child, such as Social Security benefits, would be counted. The income of the foster parents would not be counted.

Kinship is the self-defined relationship between two or more people and is based on biological, legal, and/or strong family-like ties.
For the purposes of NC Pre-K, kinship is established when the child lives with and is cared for by an adult who is not the child’s parent, legal guardian, legal custodian, or foster parent.

For a child living with a kinship provider, family size includes the NC Pre-K child plus all of the child’s minor siblings living in the same household. Any income received by the child, such as Social Security benefits, would be counted. The income of the kinship provider would not be counted.

Income Requirement

Regular gross income may include:

  • Regular employment (including overtime pay),
  • Income earned through sales commissions averaged over several months,
  • Regular employment through a temporary employment agency,
  • Temporary unemployment pay,
  • Child support payments,
  • Alimony payments,
  • Workman’s compensation
  • Retirement
  • Social Security Benefits (SSA)
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • VA disability benefit

Additional Enrollment Eligibility Criteria

Age-eligible children whose families are experiencing homelessness are considered categorically eligible for NC Pre-K.

What is Homelessness?
In January of 2002, Congress authorized the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to help people experiencing homelessness. The federal law includes the Education of Homeless Children and Youth Program, which entitles children who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence to a free, appropriate education and requires schools to remove barriers to their enrollment, attendance, and success in school.
Examples of living situations that may qualify under the McKinney-Vento Act include, but are not limited to:

  • Living with a friend, relative or other person or family because of a loss of housing
  • Staying in a motel or hotel because of a loss of housing or fleeing domestic violence
  • Living in an emergency shelter, transitional housing or domestic violence shelter
  • Living in a car, park or public place, an abandoned building or bus station
  • Living temporarily in substandard housing
  • Living in a campground or an inadequate trailer home
  • Living in a runaway or homeless youth shelter
  • Youth who are living on their own, even if their families want them to come home

Any age-eligible child who is a child of either of the following shall be eligible for the program:

  • A member of the Armed Forces of the United States, Active Duty, National Guard, or Reserve Component
  • A member of the Armed Forces of the United States, Active Duty, National Guard, or Reserve Component who was injured (receives 10% or higher in VA disability benefit) or killed while serving on active duty.

  • Educational needs are indicated by the child’s performance results on an NC Pre-K approved developmental screening or in an existing Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
  • Developmental disabilities are identified through evaluations followed by targeted tests and measures administered by education and/or health professionals. They may include, but are not limited to, cerebral palsy, sight or vision impairment, orthopedic impairment or autism.
  • Chronic health conditions must be diagnosed and documented by a professional health care provider. Chronic health conditions are considered to have the potential to interfere with a child’s development and learning, as determined by a health care professional. This determination must include a signed and dated written statement describing how the child would benefit from participating in a high-quality childhood program such as NC Pre-K
  • Limited English Proficiency (LEP) is identified by the child speaking limited or no English in the home, as indicated by the family on the child’s application and/or during the child’s developmental screening.

Document Requirements

  • Register of Deeds office (birth certificate)
  • A birth certificate given to mother at hospital
  • Immunization record from pediatrician’s office or health department
  • Passport

Documents that provide the best idea of your current income.  Mark through all social security numbers on all documents.

Tax Records

  • Current W-2’s
  • 1040 – Adjusted Gross line 11

Pay Stubs (most recent pay periods)

  • If paid weekly, submit four (4) consecutive pay stubs
  • If paid every other week, submit two (2) consecutive pay stubs
  • If paid monthly, submit at least one whole month’s pay stub
  • Leave and Earning Statements (LES)


  • Letter with an amount to be received and the maximum amount a person can receive. This is mailed to each person receiving unemployment benefits.

Worker's Compensation

  • Letter from the employer with the amount of worker’s compensation and the period in which worker’s compensation will be received.

Employer Written Statement

  • Must reflect the employee’s most recent pay periods
  • Must include the amount and frequency of pay (including overtime)
  • Must be signed by the employer
  • Documented on letterhead (if available)

Child Support Payments

  • A copy of the court order may be requested from the clerk of court in the county that ordered the child support.
  • Print out or take a screenshot from the website showing the amounts received.  Here is the link: https://ncchildsupport.com/ecoa/parentsIndex.jsp


  • A letter from the Social Security Administration stating the type of social security payment and the amount to be received

Self-employed individuals:

  • 1040-Adjusted Gross line 11 or
  • 1099 or Bank statements for business minus 20% from total income if no tax documentation is provided or
  • 1099 or Bank statements for business minus itemized expense receipts.

Other Income

  • VA Disability (Benefit Summary Letter)
  • Alimony Payments
  • Retirement

  • A letter (order) from the branch of service stating active duty
  • Pay stub (LES) for an active-duty member who is the mother or father
  • A letter from branch of service stating the parent was killed in the line of duty
  • DEERS form
  • VA Disability (Benefit Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting Summary Letter)

Do not submit a military ID.

  • Document from the doctor’s office stating the condition is chronic. This can be on the well-child visit paperwork.
  • Asthma: document from the doctor’s office stating chronic asthma. Some children have asthma, but not all asthma is chronic. It must have “chronic” stated on the document from the doctor’s office.
  • Any medical document or evaluation from a therapist or doctor stating the medical condition. (Note: Sickle Cell Anemia is a chronic health condition.)

  • Child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) from the local school system.
  • Child’s goals, such as speech, etc., from the therapist delivering the service.

If you would like your child to attend a Cumberland County Schools Center, proof of residency is required.  Please submit a current utility bill (water, gas, or electric) or current lease agreement if utilities are paid as part of the lease.  If the billholder is not in the parent's or guardian's name, an Affidavit of Residency is also required.

Site Selection

There are various categories of outstanding centers in Cumberland County:

  • 4- or 5-star licensed centers in Private Childcare Centers, Cumberland County Schools, and Head Start centers.
  • Throughout the year, more centers might be added, contingent on the funding granted to Cumberland County. To view the most recent list of providers, visit ccpfc.org site locations.

Children are placed as close to the family's preferred Pre-K location as possible.  In your application, you can designate a maximum of five (5) preferred centers. The order of the centers is based on how far they are from your residential address. Please use our online application to find places close to your employment or residence.

Before accepting or declining a placement offer, you might find scheduling a tour with the center’s director helpful. You can request to be kept on the waiting list for other programs if, for any reason, you cannot accept placement at a specific center. You may be contacted regarding placement if unfilled seats in a preferred center remain at the end of the placement process; however, there is never a guarantee of a preferred placement or a second offer.

The free NC Pre-K program is only available at approved centers, even though many programs offer classes dubbed "Pre-K" classes. Class size, teacher education, and curriculum use are the statutory requirements approved NC Pre-K schools must adhere to.

The Partnership for Children of Cumberland County provides funding for the NC Pre-K program. The non-profit agency subcontracts NC Pre-K services with elementary schools, Head Start, and childcare centers that have licensed four- or five-star state childcare classrooms.  Your child may be placed for NC Pre-K at a different center than his or her siblings, but for kindergarten, your student will attend classes following Cumberland County Schools' attendance lines.

Center/Staff Requirments

NC Pre-K centers must provide a pre-kindergarten program for a regular school day (five days a week and minimum of 6 ½ hours per day) for a 10-month (180 instructional days) per school calendar year. In Cumberland County, we generally follow the Cumberland County School Calendar.  Most centers operate NC Pre-K classes from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm, however, hours may vary from classroom to classroom.  If your child is assigned to one of the private childcare centers, they may provide an operational calendar slightly different from the Cumberland County School Calendar. Depending on your child’s school, days may be set aside for home visits and staggered entry; these days are included in the 180-day school calendar. It is essential for your child’s success that they attend regularly. Children who do not attend regularly may be released from the program unless there is an extenuating circumstance, such as a medical emergency. Keep in mind that your child will not attend NC Pre-K on school workdays, holidays, and school breaks closely following the Cumberland County School calendars.

All NC Pre-K lead teachers, whether in the school system, childcare center, or Head Start center, are state-licensed professionals with degrees in Birth through Kindergarten, Early Childhood Education, or a related area of study.  NC Pre-K teacher assistants are professionals with degrees in Early Childhood Education or Child Development Associate.

The NC Pre-K teacher-to-children ratio is 1 to 9.  The maximum number of children in an NC Pre-K classroom is 18.  Each classroom is taught by one lead teacher and one teacher assistant.

Center/Classroom Operation

Please consult your child’s assigned school regarding their uniform policy.

Please dress your child in weather-appropriate clothing with closed-toed shoes. Ensure your child can move comfortably in clothing that may get dirty or “painted” in the art center.  Children learn through play in NC Pre-K and will enjoy outside learning every day.  Please also provide a change of seasonally appropriate clothes if your child needs to change clothes during the day.

The school will provide any needed supplies; however, you may want to provide a small backpack or bag to carry papers and personal belongings to and from school.

All schools have a classroom schedule posted. The child’s day will consist of educational activities that provide high-quality indoor and outdoor learning environments. Both indoor and outdoor environments shall address curricular objectives by encouraging child-initiated, teacher–supported, active learning experiences. Teachers are to arrange for children to be outdoors each and every day, for a minimum of one hour, weather permitting.

NC Pre-K programs are expected to provide children with developmentally appropriate, high-quality pre-kindergarten experiences. All Cumberland County NC Pre-K Classrooms use The Creative Curriculum for Preschool, 5th Edition to provide opportunities for children’s learning. The philosophy behind the curriculum is that young children learn best by doing. Learning isn’t just repeating what someone else says; it requires active thinking and experimenting to discover how things work and to learn firsthand about our world. In their early years, children explore the world around them by using all their senses (touching, tasting, listening, smelling, and looking). Children learn through purposeful and high-quality play experiences and build critical foundational skills for cognitive development and academic achievement. These include verbalization, language comprehension, increased vocabulary, imagination, questioning, problem-solving, observation, empathy, cooperation skills, and learning another’s perspective. Through play, children learn a set of skills such as social skills, creativity, hand-to-eye coordination, problem-solving, and imagination. These skills are better learned through play rather than flashcards or academic drills. Play enables us to achieve the key goals of our early childhood curriculum. Play is the work of young children. Please consult with your child’s teacher if you have any questions concerning your child or the curriculum.

Centers will provide breakfast and/or snacks and lunch daily.  All centers follow the USDA Child Care Food Program guidelines and are high in nutrients and low in fat, sugar, and salt. Menus are posted in classrooms. The partial/total cost of meals may be charged when families do not qualify for free/reduced price meals.

Reading twenty to thirty minutes each night with your child is your homework assignment. It is one of the best ways to help your child build vocabulary and strengthen language skills. Reading nightly is a great habit that will serve your child well in later years and is an excellent opportunity to have one-on-one time with your child.  Visit your local library for a library card, and ask the children’s librarian for age-appropriate books that match your child’s interests.

Wrap-Around Care

While NC Pre-K is free of charge, there may be fees for additional care before or after school hours. Please consult your child’s assigned school regarding wraparound care.

Parents working, attending school, or in a job training program may be eligible for childcare subsidies to help with the cost of childcare outside of the NC Pre-K day. You must contact the Cumberland County Department of Social Services (CCDSS) at 910-323-1540 as soon as possible to apply for an income-based childcare voucher.  There may be a waiting list.



  • NC Pre-K students placed at Cumberland County School are eligible for transportation if they reside within the attendance lines school.  If you are eligible for transportation, you must have an adult at your home for pick-up and drop-off each day.
  • Parents are responsible for dropping off and picking up students daily for NC Pre-K at private childcare centers, Head Start centers, or out-of-attendance online schools.  Currently, there is no transportation provided by NC Pre-K. However, some childcare centers may provide transportation for a fee. This must be arranged with the center.


All children entering an NC Pre-K program will be screened with an approved screening tool within 90 days of the first day of attendance or within 6 months before the first day of attendance into the program. This screening provides teachers with information on children’s developmental status and the possible need for further evaluation. Early detection is essential to increasing the likelihood that children at risk of developmental delay and those with disabilities receive special services quickly.

A completed NC Health Assessment Transmittal Form, Dental Assessment, and Shot Record will be needed for NC Pre-K. You should have these forms completed before the first day of school; however, if you cannot make an appointment with your child’s physician, you will be asked to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. It is a program requirement that each of these forms be completed in entirety within the first 30 days of school start-up. Families should make a doctor's appointment to update their child’s shots and have Medical/Dental Reports completed before August 15th so their children can start school on time. You may provide a copy of a recent physical dated within one year of your child’s first school day. Give health paperwork to your child’s teacher or center director. Unfortunately, the child may be removed from the program if these documents are not on file.

Family Engagement

Yes! Family involvement is critical to the success of the children. NC Pre-K programs provide meaningful opportunities for parents and families to build trusting relationships that foster a bond between those educating the NC Pre-K child. Teachers provide many ways for families to be engaged in their child’s education: home visits, parent/teacher conferences, classroom visits, and options for parents/guardians to participate in classroom activities, family involvement, and opportunities to engage families outside of the regular school day.

MISC Questions

Cumberland County NC Pre-K centers place a high priority on the health of our teachers, center employees, and students as well as their families. We've implemented health and safety procedures in our offices, centers, and classrooms.

Partnership for Children NC Pre-K

Cumberland County Schools 

Action Pathways - Head Start

Let’s Get Enrolled is a collaboration between the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County, Cumberland County Schools, and Action Pathways. Our goal is to provide Cumberland County families with a path to high-quality early education for their preschool-aged children through 4- and 5-Star licensed child care providers in Cumberland County, Head Start, and Title 1 programs.