COLORADO SPRINGS — The Colorado Department of Early Childhood is proposing a new enrollment process for Colorado Universal Preschool (UPK). They want to make it easier and faster for families to be matched with a childcare provider.
As News5 has reported, some parents are frustrated with the current enrollment process. Many said their children were matched with a school only to find out there was not enough space.
The UPK program was implemented at the beginning of this school year, August 2023.
Families used an online application process to match their child with a school of their choice.
“It was so difficult, there was no communication, we didn't not know what was happening. The only emails I got from UPK were congratulations on first round and second round matches. After that we are told nothing,” one Colorado Springs mom said.
Another parent is Elizabeth Miller. She said, “I am hoping this is working out for families as they want it to but unfortunately for my family this is not the case.”
Liz Denson is The President of Early Connections Learning Centersin Colorado Springs SHE said the current process did cause some confusion.
“The process was kind of convoluted for families. Families had to go in and apply and then they had to be matched to us, and then they had to go and accept the match and then we, as the provider, had to also accept the match. So there were a lot of steps," Denson said.
The newly proposed enrollment process would show families which schools have open spots in real time to avoid confusion. It would also allow some parents to pre-register their child in the school of their choice.
“I'm really appreciative of the early enrollment process of allowing families who are currently enrolled or who have siblings who are currently enrolled or children of staff members; to be able to have that pre-registration opportunity earlier in the year,” Denson said.
The state hopes the pre-registration would help them place students with IEPs. They also said it would also help providers with timing and funding. Denson said it would help them plan ahead.
“We'll then know and we can kind of get out of the way, the children we know we have to care for. Then it allows us to identify what additional slots we may be able to open in various classrooms depending on the individual needs of our organization at that time,” Denson said.
Denson believes to help families, the new application needs to provide more information about each specific school.
“We the providers have to go in and basically build our profiles all over again. But the new system will have greater opportunity for us to be able to describe the exact programs that we offer and give families a greater understanding from the beginning of their enrollment process,” Denson said.
Denson said families had to go through many challenges to get UPK this school year but she is confident a new application will help.
“Being able to understand where they were in the process, what's the next step? How do I actually ensure that I am enrolled? And I think that this new system will alleviate a lot of those challenges for families and make it a little bit easier to understand,” Denson said.
“Our perspective from the enrollment process in 2023 was the challenges of families being able to understand where they were in the process. What's the next step? How do I actually ensure that I am enrolled? I think that this new system will alleviate a lot of those challenges for families and make it a little bit easier to understand,” Denson said.
The state said, over the next month they will meet with multiple school districts and childcare providers to go over the proposal and continue to develop it.
Denson said Early Connections has been in contact with the state about UPK.
“We've had several members of our leadership team at Early Connections be involved with some of the feedback cycles that CDEC has been putting forward, to help inform what UPS is going to look like in 2024. So we're really excited to see our feedback being taken into account and representative of what CDEC is putting forward in 2024 for UPK,” Denson said.
If approved, the new enrollment process would take effect before the start of the 2024-25 school year.
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