Back to school: The struggle to find preschool openings

While some kids are going back to school, others are taking their first toddler steps into a classroom.

In recent years, the pressure on parents to find quality preschool programs for their young children has risen — there are parents who enroll their children in preschool practically before they’re out of the womb.

Parents who were not proactive in getting their child into a preschool still have hope to get accepted into a good school, according to some experts in the pre-kindergarten business.

In fact, just before the beginning of fall isn’t such a bad time to sign up, said Stacey Boyd of San Francisco-based Savvy Source, a free online service that connects parents with preschools.

“I would never advise parents to start looking in that time frame, but many people drop out [of waiting lists] in the July and August time frame, so there are openings,” Boyd said.

Noel Wales was one San Francisco parent who managed to land a last-minute private preschool spot for his daughter, Josephine.

“We signed up for about 12 schools, and they were the only ones who came back with a slot for us,” Wales said. “We didn’t even look at it ahead of time — we asked when we could see the place.”

Students who come to kindergarten without some preschool perform poorly as compared with their peers, according to some studies.

“There is a lot of angst about [enrolling in preschool], and that’s why we’re in business — to hold parents’ hands,” said Betsy Little of Little & Molligan, a San Rafael-based preschool consulting firm.

Finding a preschool slot is only part of the struggle. Redwood City resident Andrea Beggs was trying to find preschool space for her grandson, but her budget falls $500 to $600 per month short of the cost.

“It looks like he has to wait until kindergarten,” Beggs said.

Keeping cost out of the equation is the goal of free Preschool for All programs in San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

There are still open slots in preschools run by The City and by the school district, said Matthew Rector of San Francisco’s Preschool for All.

In San Mateo County, openings vary by city, said Sarah Johnson, program director with the Child Care Coordinating Council.

Examiner Staff Writer Katie Worth contributed to this report.

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