MECK Pre-K is a free, quality pre-kindergarten program funded by Mecklenburg County and run by Smart Start of Mecklenburg County. 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 may be parents with eligible four-year-olds who don’t know they can benefit from this program!

Let’s break down some of the common misconceptions about FREE pre-kindergarten 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. To apply, your child must be four years old on or before August 31 and live in Mecklenburg County. Priority is given to families who earn at or below 400% of the federal poverty level. Take a look at this chart to see if your income falls within this range. A family of three 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 receive priority. If you’re not sure about eligibility, reach out 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!).

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 spot 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 to 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. They make it easy to apply online and securely upload the documents that are required to verify your child’s eligibility. Just don’t forget to submit them! Your application isn’t complete until you do.

If you’re not able to submit your application online, someone with the program can assist you. Just call 704-943-9585 or email info@MeckPreK.org to request your application. Once everything has been submitted, you’ll receive an email or mailed letter notifying you when your child is officially accepted into MECK Pre-K. 🎉