Thursday, June 20, 2024

A Cambridge program will provide free school-day, school-year preschool to every resident 4-year-old and some 3-year-olds. (Photo: Cambridge Preschool Program)

Cambridge’s universal preschool will be known as the Cambridge Preschool Program and begin accepting a universal application this winter for enrollment in the 2024-2025 school year, city and Cambridge Public Schools said Tuesday.

The publicly funded program will provide free school-day, school-year preschool to every 4-year-old and some 3-year-olds living in Cambridge. The city is still adding staff members and funding, officials said. The city’s proposed budget gives $34.4 million to what has been known as universal prekindergarten (and expects operating costs of $20 million a year), with $1.2 million worth of new, full-time positions in the Office of Early Childhood and $5.1 million in capital investment to build out prekindergarten classrooms.

“We aim to be a national model for best practice in building early childhood systems,” said Lisa Grant, executive director of the Office of Early Childhood, which oversees the program. “This model promises to center equity in access, deliver high-quality programming and prioritize early educator compensation and support with unprecedented funding that will enable programs to deliver on those promises.”

A single application will let families apply to a variety of preschool settings: community-based; in city Department of Human Service programs; and at Cambridge Public Schools. Families can select extended-day and summer preschool programs for an additional cost. The universal application replaces the school district’s current 3-year-old lottery and Junior Kindergarten Lottery, the city’s DHSP Preschool Lottery and the Office of Early Childhood’s scholarship application process. A separate lottery process will be held for kindergarten enrollment.

Slots are now for children who will be 4 years old by Aug. 31, 2024, or for those turning 3 by that date who meet specific eligibility requirements.

“Every child in Cambridge deserves access to preschool regardless of their family’s income status,” Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui said in a press release. “Universal preschool  has been a priority of my office, and for the City Council and School Committee, for many years. I look forward to the lasting impact of universal preschool on our community.”

The pursuit of universal pre-k frustrated the City Council for several terms before the arrival of City Manager Yi-An Huang, who said in February that he prioritized it as a goal because he felt it served as the largest joint issue across all sectors of governmental and residential life.

Cambridge Public Schools superintendent Victoria Greer called the expected early learning experiences “a game-changer for our families” and a “historic investment in our young people.”

Information is at earlychildhoodcambridge.org.


This post took significant amounts of material from a press release.