The NC Pre-K program offers free preschool for families who qualify. NC Pre-K operates on the public school calendar and classrooms are offered at participating Cumberland County Schools, Head Start programs, and licensed four and five-star private centers. There are a limited amount of openings in Cumberland County each school year. NC Pre-K services are offered at no charge to eligible children.
For detailed information on the NC Pre-K Program, visit the NC Division of Child Development and Early Education.
Decades of research have shown that pre-kindergarten makes a difference in the school readiness of children. Not just in the short-term to get children ready to succeed in school, but in the long-term, as children grow up, become employed, and contribute to the strength of the economy.
Your child must have turned 4-years-old by August 31 for the upcoming school year.
One of the following must also be true:
- The child's family gross income is at or below 75% of the state median income, OR
- The child has limited English proficiency, an identified disability, a chronic health condition or a developmental or educational need OR
- Is a military dependent of an active duty service member or a military service member who has been seriously injured or killed while on active duty
Once we receive your application and the required documents, the next steps are:
Quick Review - Our NC Pre-K staff will do a quick review of your application and documents.
- If further information is needed, we will contact you within five (5) business days.
- If the application is complete, and we need no additional documentation, your application and information will move on to determine eligibility.
Eligibility - Our NC Pre-K staff will use the information you provided to determine eligibility. We will contact you regarding eligibility within 30 business days.
- Meets Eligibility - If your child meets eligibility requirements, we will notify you and place your child in an NC Pre-K Program.
- Does not Meet Eligibility - If your child does not meet eligibility requirements, a member of our Family Support team will contact you with other community resources and additional information.
If your child is eligible for NC Pre-K, the Partnership for Children will place students into participating NC Pre-K sites based on parent choice and site availability. Placement will take place starting in late April. Due to the number of applications received not every child can be placed at their desired location. Notifications will be sent out to the family via email, phone call, text message, or mail stating which site the child has been accepted to. The family must notify the site 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.
- If your child is placed in a Private Daycare Center site, you will receive a call or email from your child’s teacher or the site director for site orientation information.
- If your child is placed in a Cumberland County Schools site, you will receive a letter from Cumberland County Schools Pre-K department in late August.
- If your child is placed in a Head Start site, you will receive a call or email for placement information.
- If your child is not eligible (child is not four years old by August 31st and family is not income-eligible) you will be notified by phone or email within a month after application.
Families should make a doctor's appointment to update your child’s shots and have Medical/Dental Reports completed before August 15th so your child 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 site director.
My older children attend school per Cumberland County Schools attendance lines. Why is my child placed at another school for NC Pre-K?
Funding for the NC Pre-K program is provided through the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County. The non-profit agency subcontracts NC Pre-K services with elementary schools, Head Start, and child care sites having licensed four or five-star state childcare classrooms. Your child may be placed for NC Pre-K at a different site than his or her siblings, but for Kindergarten your student will attend classes following Cumberland County Schools attendance lines.
NC Pre-K is offered free of charge and is fully funded. The only fees that may be charged to families for services are fees to cover the partial/full costs of meals when families do not qualify for free or reduced meals. When you register your child at the assigned school, you will need to fill out an application for free/reduced lunch. Families may also be charged the cost of wraparound services provided before or after the regular school day, during holidays or during summer months, if needed, and available. Some individual sites may provide transportation in which case fees may apply. It is also at the discretion of the site to charge late fees for families that repeatedly arrive late to pick up their child.
Yes, a completed NC Health Assessment Transmittal Form, Dental Assessment, and Shot Record will be needed. It is recommended that you have these forms completed prior to the first day of school; however, if you are unable to 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 is completed in entirety within the first 30 days of the beginning of school. Unfortunately, if these documents are not on file, the child may be removed from the program.
NC Pre-K typically starts in late August using a staggered entry schedule.
Currently, there is no transportation provided by NC Pre-K. Parents are responsible for dropping off and picking up students each day for NC Pre-K classes at childcare, Head Start, or out-of-attendance-line school sites. Some childcare sites, however, may provide transportation for a fee. This must be arranged with the site.
NC Pre-K students placed at a Cumberland County School site are eligible for transportation if they reside within the Elementary attendance lines. If you are eligible for transportation, you must have an adult at your home for pick up and drop off each day.
NC Pre-K allows communities to decide where classrooms should be housed, whether in a Child Care setting, Public School, or Head Start. Unless you designate which school you would like your child to attend on your application, they are placed closest to home. The amount of State funding will determine how many sites and classrooms will be available each year.
NC Pre-K sites must provide a pre-kindergarten program for a regular school day (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 System’s Calendar. Most sites 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 child care facilities, they may provide an operational calendar that could be slightly different than the Cumberland County School System Calendar. Depending on your child’s school, there may be days set aside for home visits and staggered entry; these days are included in the 180-day school calendar. It is important for your child’s success that they attend on a regular basis. Children that do not attend regularly may be dropped 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.
The NC Pre-K teacher to children ratio is 1 to 9. The maximum of children in an NC Pre-K classroom is 18 children. Each class is taught by one teacher and one teacher assistant.
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 in the program, or within 6 months prior to 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.
All NC Pre-K lead teachers, regardless if they in the school system, childcare center, or Head Start center, are state-licensed professionals with degrees in Birth thru 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.
NC Pre-K programs are expected to provide developmentally appropriate, high-quality pre-kindergarten experiences for children. 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 find out how things work and to learn firsthand about the world we live in. In their early years, children explore the world around them by using all their senses (touching, tasting, listening, smelling, and looking). As children learn through purposeful and high-quality play experiences, they are building critical foundational skills for cognitive development and academic achievement. These include verbalization, language comprehension, increased vocabulary, imagination, questioning, problem-solving, observation, empathy, co-operation 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 through 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.
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.
Sites must provide breakfast and/or snacks and lunch meeting USDA requirements during the regular school day. The partial/full cost of meals may be charged when families do not qualify for free/reduced-price meals. When children bring their own food for meals and snacks to school, if the food does not meet the specified nutritional requirements, the center must provide additional food necessary to meet those requirements.
Yes! Family involvement is critical to the success of the children. NC Pre-K programs are to provide meaningful opportunities for parents and families to build trusting relationships that foster a bond between those involved in the education of 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.
Any needed supplies will be provided by the school, however, you may want to provide a small backpack or bag to carry papers and personal belongings to and from school.
Please consult your child’s assigned school regarding their uniform policy.
However, your child should be dressed in weather-appropriate clothing with closed-toed shoes. Make sure 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 in case your child needs to change clothes during the day.
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 a good 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.