Douglas County School District plans for universal preschool

No changes anticipated to current early childhood education programs


Ahead of the launch of state-funded universal pre-kindergarten in 2023-24, the Douglas County School District is working out its role in the new program. 

During the Nov. 15 board meeting, the district staff gave a presentation covering some details of the universal pre-kindergarten program. Through its charters and early childhood programs, the district will be one of several pre-kindergarten providers participating.

“We are able to absolutely accommodate the 10 hours of free preschool for our 4-year-olds at, very likely, but to be determined, no cost to our familes,” Deputy Superintendent Danelle Hiatt said.

Next school year, the Colorado Department of Education will fund at least 10 hours per week for 4-year-olds for one year of preschool. Under the program, the state is expected to provide 40% of the base pupil rate for each participating child. However, many details remain unfinalized.

Graham said many of the specifics regarding funding, number of hours and eligibility will be discussed at an upcoming state committee meeting on Nov. 21.

In the meantime, Hiatt said the district’s existing early childhood programs meet the requirements for universal pre-kindergarten and a new task force has been created to implement the first few years of programming and see where expansions are possible in the future.

“Our recommendation up to this point has been … in year one, not to significantly alter our preschool programming in the district,” Hiatt said. “There are many variables right now that are unknown.”

A recent estimate from the Colorado Department of Early Childhood anticipates that between 2,400 and 2,700 Douglas County children will be eligible for universal pre-kindergarten. The program is voluntary for families.

Other potential providers include private, faith-based and in-home childcare, with the program allowing any licensed childcare provider to opt-in. 

Between the district’s early childhood education and before and after school enterprise programs, there is capacity to serve 1,192 students, with additional capacity available through charters.

“Currently, we are projected to be on par with being able to serve all of those 2,700 age-eligible students within the county given all of those options available for families to choose from,” Director of Early Childhood Education Lisa Graham said. 

The enrollment process is planned to begin mid-January and Graham said interested families will apply through a universal application available through the local coordinating organization. The application system will match students with providers and families will then have to register their student with their provider. 

“Families will be able to select up to 10 of their preference providers and they will prioritize that list of providers according to their first, second, third choice and they’ll answer several questions within the system,” Graham explained. “The system will generate a match between the families’ priorities and those providers.”

Hiatt and Graham said they would return to the board with updates as soon as the state finalized the details.

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