The Universal PreKindergarten Program, or UPK henceforth, is a free preK program, funded by New York State, for four year old children in the Saratoga Springs School District area. This is an extremely popular choice for families in our district, and there is usually a long waiting period before you are notified of whether you are accepted or not. However, it doesn’t matter how soon you put your name in or how often you call the Main Office. The positions are filled using a lottery system, and the school does not begin the lottery until springtime, which is when they find out how much money has been allotted for the program.
My daughter attended one of the UPK classes at the YMCA in the afternoon last year and really enjoyed it. The classes are definitely more focused on Kindergarten readiness skills and academics. Letter and number recognition, positional awareness (over, above, behind, etc) and early rhyming skills are a few of the major concepts the teachers work on with the children. It is also an introduction to preparing your child for five days of school.
UPK is offered in a few different locations in the morning (9-11:30am), afternoon (12:30-3pm) and full day (8:30-2:30pm). The YMCA on West Avenue has one morning and one afternoon class, while the Gick Road YMCA only has the afternoon class. The Head Start on Blue Streak Boulevard, the Head Start on Jefferson Street, and the Head Start on Boches Road in Greenfield Center all offer full day UPK. There is no transportation provided for any of the programs, so parents are responsible for dropping off and picking up their children.
Your child is eligible if you live within the Saratoga Springs School District and they turn four by December 1st of the upcoming school year. One thing to note, is this is NOT an option for young five year olds who are not ready to enter Kindergarten just yet. They only accept four year olds, so plan ahead.
So, what is the next step? First, call the Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Office (Thomas Mele) at 583-4474 to add your contact information to the mailing list. You will not hear anything for a few months – there is nothing the school district can do except wait to hear from the state. Once they have received notification of the amount of money budgeted to fund the UPK program, applications will be mailed to names on the list, usually in the spring. This application essentially asks you to prioritize your choices of where and when you would like to go. Once you mail this in, you may find out in a relatively short time if your child made the lottery. But be warned, sometimes you do not find out quickly if your child is accepted into the program, and it is advisable to make other arrangements for your child to go to preschool elsewhere in case you don’t get accepted. Most programs locally will refund your tuition before the school year starts if you change your mind, and if you don’t sign up before you find out about UPK classes elsewhere might already be full. I know of plenty of parents who either found out their child was accepted right at the beginning of the school year and some even as late as after the year had started.
When my first daughter was going through this, I only chose three of the classes and listed them in the order 1-2-3. We didn’t get selected for the beginning of the year. However, I received a letter the following December that there was now a space for her. Since she was comfortable in her current class, I decided to keep her where she was, but I had a new plan for my second daughter. I picked every class, one through six, and waited for my reply! Well, as I said before, my daughter attended UPK, but it was my third choice as far as time wise. In the end, I was very happy with her teachers and her overall experience, but it can be a semi-stressful experience. Again, since you don’t find out until springtime (or later), you should prepare yourself and register for another preschool class, just in case.
The Assistant Superindendent’s Office will be compiling their list for the 2012-2013 school year beginning December 1st. Once again, the phone number is 583-4474. To view their website click here.