All children benefit from pre-kindergarten classes, but not all children have access to them. Public pre-k classrooms are extremely limited, and a privately programs can charge as much as $200 a week!

That’s why we’re so excited to be doubling the number of free seats offered in MECK Pre-K this year. Research shows that pre-kindergarten students reap the benefits from their early start long after the year is over. The key takeaway: It sets all children up for success in the long-run. But, there are many parents with eligible four-year-olds who still aren’t taking advantage of the program!

Let’s break down some of the common misconceptions about FREE pre-k in Mecklenburg County.

Myth #1: I won’t qualify

Not necessarily true! This assumption is often what keeps so many potential students from coming through the doors of the pre-k classroom. Take a look at this chart to see if you might be eligible. A family of four with one parent employed as an entry-level police officer and another parent that works as a teacher’s assistant is an example of a family that may qualify. That’s because eligibility is based on family income and family size. If you’re not sure about eligibility, call and talk to someone before you assume MECK Pre-K isn’t for you.

Three pre-k students play and learn with blocks at a table in their classroom.

Myth #2: My child doesn’t need pre-k

Wrong – every child can benefit from pre-k education! Decades of research shows that children are more prepared and engaged in school if they participate in pre-k first. That’s why Mecklenburg County hopes to one day provide free, universal pre-k for all county residents. The classroom provides an early environment for children to tap into social emotional, creative arts, and scientific thinking skills, among others.

Myth #3: Free pre-k can’t be as good as the classes that people pay for

FALSE – MECK Pre-K classrooms must meet special criteria to ensure that students will receive a quality education. The program is only offered in four- and five-star centers, and all teachers have at least a bachelor’s degree in early childhood, child development, or a related field. All classrooms have a teacher and a teacher’s assistant and never exceed more than 18 students. That means everyone gets the attention that they need and deserve. Your child will have the same experiences they would in any other quality pre-k program, like time to spend outside and in small groups, and learning through songs, word play and letters. Plus, snack and lunch time (of course!).

But parents play an important role, too. You can help your child have the very best pre-k experience by visiting the classroom and talking to your child and your child’s teachers about what they are learning.

Pre-k students stand in line proudly and look at camera

Myth #4: There must be a catch! Nothing is free

No catch here! If your child qualifies for a seat in MECK Pre-K, they’ll participate in a year of classes at NO COST. Classes follow the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools calendar. That’s 6.5 hours of class on a school day! The only way you may end up with additional fees is if you choose take advantage of an additional service offered by your pre-k program, when they’re available (like before/after-school care or transportation to/from the facility).

Myth #5: Registering for free pre-k is far too complicated

MECK Pre-K’s registration process is very straightforward. Start by filling out the application and getting copies of the documents you need to show proof of your child’s birth date and Mecklenburg County residency. Then, it’s as simple as emailing the documents or visiting in person – whichever option is easiest for you! MECK Pre-K will reach out to you fairly quickly to complete the enrollment process and answer any questions that you have.