Why Pre-K?

Early childhood education is a field with experts in child care and development from infant-toddler to second grade classrooms. Durham County local government is invested in and committed to providing equitable, high-quality pre-K experiences for all four-year-olds in Durham County. This page has information about the benefits of pre-K for children, families and the community, and what to expect when your child attends a Durham PreK site.

Informational Video

Skill Development in Pre-K

In pre-K classrooms, teachers use children's interests and ideas to create enjoyable learning activities (Play in the Early Years). When children are interested in the activity, they are more engaged, which creates more opportunities for learning.

Skill Development Why is this skill important?
Social Emotional Skills Sharing/turn-taking/watching/listening
Routines & Self-Regulation Children can focus their attention on learning when they have an expected schedule for the day. Pre-K teachers plan extra time for transitions between activities to allow children to clean-up and adjust to a new activity. This can develop skills that help children regulate their emotions, accept a change in plans, and express themselves.
Relationship Building By the time children enter pre-K, some have been in child care or preschool for a few years while others are entering a classroom for the first time. It is important for all children to learn how to build relationships and trust adults outside of their family, and to build friendships with other children their age.
Becoming Independent Teachers help children develop independence and self-confidence by letting them try new things and letting them make mistakes. Teachers also teach their students that making mistakes is okay and that they can learn from those mistakes. This teaches them that it's okay to be wrong sometimes and gives them the courage to try new things.
Foundation for Academic Learning in K-12 The foundations of logic and reasoning, verbal language, vocabulary, comprehension, and scientific exploration come begin in pre-K classrooms through play and teacher-guided activities. (Examples below)
Vocabulary Free choice stations that encourage imagination and play build children's vocabulary. Expressing their imaginative ideas allows children to teach each other new words, and teachers can introduce new words to explain concepts they're discovering during play.

To learn more about the benefits of pre-K, click here.

Why Choose Durham PreK?

Durham PreK teachers, teacher assistants, directors and staff are all committed to providing a high-quality early childhood experience for each child.

Child care centers applied for Durham PreK and were chosen by a nonconflicting review committee based on high quality standards. The sites that were accepted into the program are held to high standards to maintain high-quality care.

Each Durham PreK site must:

The Durham PreK Application is a joint application between Durham Public Schools, Durham Head Start, NC Pre-K, and Durham PreK. All sites in each of those programs are included in just one application. For a full list of sites, click here.

What do the sites have in common?
  • Birth-Kindergarten Licensed Teachers
  • Research-based curriculum that values play to keep children engaged and excited about learning
  • High-quality learning environments
  • 5-star rating from NC Division of Child Development and Early Education
  • Low student-teacher ratios
How are the sites different?

While all Durham PreK sites must meet and maintain a high standard of care, the sites do vary in some ways.

  • Durham Public Schools classrooms have a slightly longer school day.
    • Head Start and private sites run for 6.5 hours, but Durham Public Schools classrooms run for 7 hours.
  • Many sites offer Before and After Care (see a full list here)
    • The Whitted School is currently the only DPS location that offers Before and After Care for preschool students.
What is considered during child placement?

The Pre-K Partners (Durham Public Schools, Durham’s Partnership for Children, Durham Head Start, and Child Care Services Association) consider the following information for child placement:

  • Designated address (whether home or work, indicated by applying parent or guardian
  • Sibling school location
  • School preferences

In addition to these criteria, some of the sites have additional placement requirements

  • Head Start requires families to submit your most recent W-9 Tax Form
  • DPS requires families to submit their application by May 15th and a completed child development screening.

Drop-Off

When you drop your child off for their day at school, you will walk them to their classroom and help them transition to their school day. Families are encouraged to wash their hands with their child as they enter the classroom. Walking your child to your door is also a great way to build a relationship with your child’s teacher(s) and see your child’s work!

Morning Snack

After all students arrive and teachers are no longer greeting families at the door, the class washes their hands and sits down to have a healthy morning snack together.

Free Choice Activities

Free choice activities are also known as center time. Children choose between a variety of centers (examples listed below) that allow them to practice different skills. This also gives children the chance to focus on something that interests them, or to try new things. Typically, 2-3 children can do one center at a time, so while they build their developmental skills through their activity, they are also practicing their language and social skills.

Outdoor Play

Morning outdoor time is an opportunity for children to play games together or explore nature. Outdoor time is a great way for children to develop their gross motor skills and coordination. Teachers may plan specific activities, like scavenger hunts, weather observations, or obstacle courses, and other times children can choose their own activities and create their own games.

Morning Meeting

Morning meeting is a time for all the students to come together for welcome songs, friendship-building activities, story time, and more. Watch our video above to hear some of our Durham PreK teachers talk about morning meetings and circle time.

Free Choice Activities/ Teacher Small Groups

Many classrooms have free choice centers more than once a day. During one of those, teachers often call a few students at a time into a small group. These small groups are used to practice specific skills determined by the teacher. For example, the teacher may identify 3-4 students to read a story together. The groups rotate throughout the week so every child has at least one opportunity for small group learning.

Lunch

Children wash their hands and have a healthy lunch provided by the child care center each day.

Quiet Time

Quiet time is very important for child development and learning. Children’s minds are working hard all day to learn new things, practice social skills, and explore their interests. Dedicating time after lunch for rest allows their minds to absorb everything they learned in the morning and prepares them for the rest of the day.

Outdoor Time

Afternoon outdoor time is another opportunity for children to play games together or explore nature. Outdoor time is a great way for children to develop their gross motor skills and coordination. Sometimes, teachers plan specific activities, like scavenger hunts, weather observations, or obstacle courses, and other times children can choose their own activities and create their own games.

Afternoon Meeting

Afternoon meetings are a time for teachers to revisit the concepts they learned and books they read during the morning meeting or at other times during the week.

Afternoon Snack

After outdoor play and an afternoon meeting, children wash their hands and sit down to have their healthy afternoon snack.

Typical Day in a Pre-K Classroom

Use the up and down arrows to move through the different activities.

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Importance of Play

Research shows play-based learning is an effective way for children to learn, to prepare them for kindergarten and to develop their social-emotional skills. Play-based and child-centered instruction can also teach children to love learning.

Sources and More Information

Play in the Early Years from the Bay Area Early Childhood Funders, May 2007

Comprehensive Research Review Finds Lasting Effects of Quality Early Childhood Education through High School from the American Educational Research Association

Untangling the Evidence on Preschool Effectiveness: Insights for Policymakers from the Learning Policy Institute

NC Pre-K | North Carolina Prekindergarten Program Guidelines from DCDEE

Child Care Quality from Child Care Services Association

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The 2021-2022 Durham PreK Application is still open! Click here to access the application information and materials.