Community Connections: Get to Know Durham PreK!

August 3, 2022

Welcome to Durham PreK! Whether you are a first time pre-K family or if you have older children who are Durham PreK graduates, we are so excited to get to know you this school year! You most likely learned a bit about Durham PreK during the application process, but there are so many people and efforts that go into making the application possible. Let’s dive into some of the parts of Durham PreK you may not have read about before!

Durham PreK developed out of

  • research-based activism from early childhood experts in Durham,
  • local officials committed to ensuring better futures for Durham’s youngest children, and
  • supportive neighbors and community members like you!

Local early childhood experts and community stakeholders formed the Durham Community Early Education/Preschool Task Force in 2016 after resolutions were passed by elected officials from Durham City Council, Durham Public Schools, and the Durham County Commission. The members and other volunteers worked together to create recommendations for Durham to consider as they began planning for a local pre-K program. These recommendations included:

  • Expanding access to all four-year-olds (and eventually three-year-olds) in Durham County
  • Increasing per-child spending to support high quality teaching and classrooms
  • Creating a team specifically for the management of a local pre-K program
  • Committing to quality early childhood practices, including family engagement, professional development, mentoring, teacher education, and more.

In 2017, after the Task Force presented their report, Durham County contracted with Child Care Services Association to study the availability of and need for local early childhood programs. This Supply and Demand study determined there were over 9,200 preschool-age children in Durham County with about 4,300 (about 47%) living in low-income households. However, there were more than two age-eligible children for each public seat in a licensed classroom. The availability of 4- or 5-star high-quality seats was even lower.

The limited access to care in Durham County became a priority for the County Commissioners, and the study showed the community would support it, too. 97% of families felt it was important to make sure quality preschool was available, 94% felt it was important for Durham County to fund quality preschool, and 90% were willing to contribute to quality preschool in Durham through monthly local taxes.

In 2018, Durham County contracted with CCSA to manage Durham PreK in a collaborative approach with Durham Public Schools, Durham's Partnership for Children, and Durham Head Start. Since then, the Durham PreK team has grown in number and in strength.

Over the years, the Durham PreK Governance Committee has guided the development of the program's policies and strategies to assure that the classrooms provie the highest quality instruction. The Quality Subcommittee has developed quality standards for family engagement at sites, an equity plan for Durham's public preschool sites, and are currently studying methods for expanding wrap-around care (before and after school services).  The PreK Partners (Child Care Services Association, Durham’s Partnership for Children, Durham Public Schools, and Families & Communities Rising, Inc.) work collaboratively throughout the school year on the application development and launch, child enrollment, program quality, outreach, marketing, and more. You can read more about members of the Durham PreK team on the Governance Committee page, the Quality Subcommittee page, and the Meet the Team page! Keep an eye out on social media for an upcoming “Meet the Partners” campaign on social media!

In the spring of 2019, Durham PreK opened 5 inaugural classrooms in 4 local child care centers. Since then, the program has expanded to include 19 Durham Public Schools sites, 6 Durham Head Start sites, and 31 community-based Durham PreK and NC Pre-K sites. Durham PreK is proud to support the Durham community by expanding access to high quality pre-K, prioritizing highly-qualified staff and equitable teacher compensation, and reducing costs for families. We can't wait for the school year to start!

If you are looking for more information or helpful resources, the following pages may be helpful:

Why Pre-K?

Learn more about the benefits of pre-K for children, families, and the community, and about the value of play-based learning.

Program Types & Eligibility

Learn more about the PreK Partners and their pre-K systems, the universal application, and what is considered for classroom eligibility.

Family & Community Resources

Find local resources for all kinds of needs (child care, family health, food security, housing, and more!)


Reach out to us if you have questions or concerns!