CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools have a message for parents of young kids: Sign up for Pre-K. It’s free and open to everyone in the city.  

There are still thousands of open slots for the upcoming school year.  

So far there have been about 20,000 applications for the pre-school program in virtually every city neighborhood. 

But there are still thousands of open spaces for students – with just a few weeks left before the new school year starts.  

Melissa Sanchez is the assistant principal at Haugen Elementary where currently there is just enough enrollment for one classroom for pre-K.

The school recently held a preview for families and gave a chance for 3-year-olds to gain exposure, and experience with education before the school year begins.  

Study after study has shown that kids who participate in Pre-K are much more successful later on and Sanchez said  it can be “the cornerstone of the building blocks of a child’s education.” 

They are the building blocks and basic – but critical — skills like learning routines, following rules and socializing with peers.

The students are following a schedule from breakfast and clean up to morning meetings, story time and table work.

 “These things that seem very simple to us, are very big skills in the pre-school classroom,” teacher Rebecca Rodriguez said.

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Early childhood education chief officer Leslie McKinily says there are still 4,000 open seats for full day pre-school, and about 1,000 open slots for half-day program.  

 “It is open to everyone,” McKinily said. “We are in over 350 elementary schools  across the city. Families can apply to any school. So whether that school is close to home or close to work or close to grandma’s house, you can apply for that school.”

CPS said pre-k classes are one way to set your children on a path to success – even when the hallways are still on summer break.  

Enrollment is open year-round for 3 or 4-year-olds. Enroll online here or call 312-229-1690.