Each week in partnership with the Merced County Office of Education we highlight North Valley leaders and programs specializing in early childhood education. 

The Fall school year may seem far away but school districts are already calling families to start registering for state-funded preschool. 

“He’s very fun loving and active. Very active,” said Mom of Four Heather Haase. 

That’s how she describes her four year old Damien who made the cut for preschool just in time last year.

“I have four children. For this last one he really wanted to be in school just like everybody else,” said Haase.

She was thankful for an opening in the state program preparing her children for kindergarten.

“Just his talking and social interaction with other kids, and being able to communicate with us and other people is a lot better easier,” she said.

“State preschool is so important because there are not preschool availabilities for all families. A lot of families want their three and four year olds to be in preschool because they want them ready for kindergarten,” said Merced City School District Preschool Program Director Melanie Cole.

She said the city has 650 open spots funded by the California Department of Education. However, there are over 1,200 eligible students in the city alone.  

“Unfortunately in our area and in our county there’s not enough slots to serve all three and four-year-olds,” she said.

Qualifications are based on a first come first serve basis dependent upon family income and number of children. 

“I think all children should be able to attend preschool but unfortunately we know that doesn’t happen,” said Cole.

That’s why Cole said getting applications in early makes all the difference. 

“It’s fun! Children love coming to preschool. They love coming to play with their friends and play with the fun materials we have. But does it benefit them too? Yes. They’re learning those social emotional skills. They’re learning those readiness skills,” said Cole.

A profound difference this proud mom.

“He didn’t know any letters at all how to spell his name. He now knows how to spell his own name. He identifies all the letters of his name. It’s an early start to their education and I’m all about advancing them. If he’s able to do it and wants to go to preschool I say why not start them if they’re showing signs of it?” said Haase.

Schools take pre-school applications all-year round but registration for Merced City School District officially starts Tuesday, April 17th.