Why Preschool Is Important and 5 Ways to Choose the Right One

Academically and socially, preschool is the most important year for your child. Here’s what to look for when choosing your child’s PreK program in Detroit.

The first few years of your child’s life are full of milestones and magical moments. They’re also the years that set them up for success. Preschool may seem like just another step in a long journey, but it’s actually the most important year for your child’s development.

When you are searching for a preschool for your 4-year-old, you want to make the choice that works for your child and your family. But how do you choose?

“You are trusting your child, your baby, to a school, and it might even be the first time you’re making this decision. So, it’s important to know what you can expect from the school you choose,” shares Desirae Tolbert, Chief Public Affairs Officer for the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD).

The first thing to know is that DPSCD has invested in early learning by expanding its free preschool program to 53 locations and 142 classrooms for the 2023-24 school year. This means there are high-quality PreK programs available across the city of Detroit.

In addition, each classroom is designed just for preschoolers. “PreK Expansion classrooms are fresh and new and incorporate elements designed for their learning experiences,” Tolbert says, adding that this includes everything from carpet to chairs to learning tools. “We absolutely take pride in providing rich, fun and engaging learning experiences through the design of the preschool classrooms. It’s an intentional, clear message that we are investing in the future.”

Here, we share five things you should look for when choosing your child’s PreK experience.

Your child’s teachers should be certified to teach preschool

Not all preschools pay attention to this, but quality classrooms are led by credentialed teachers. “Our PreK teachers are Michigan certified with Early Childhood endorsements and some have advanced degrees,” says Amanda Mattea, Deputy Executive Director of Early Learning and Montessori with DPSCD. “Our PreK classroom support staff are supported to obtain their Child Development Associate (CDA) credential and they have access to the same professional development opportunities as our lead teachers.”

As DPSCD expands its PreK offerings, there are also more opportunities for area PreK teachers to secure a position at a District school. DPSCD PreK-12th grade teachers are members of the Detroit Federation of Teachers and on the DFT salary schedule. If you’re a teacher or know a teacher who is looking for just the right PreK environment, consider one of more than 50 DPSCD schools with PreK.

The PreK curriculum should focus on whole-child development

Preschool is your child’s first year of formal education. It’s so much more than child care because it truly prepares your child for kindergarten and success in all the academic years that follow. Your child should learn through an age-appropriate curriculum that builds literacy, language, math, science, social-emotional learning, critical thinking skills — and confidence. DPSCD individualizes learning for preschoolers with the Creative Curriculum for Preschool and connected family resources like Ready Rosie.

why-preschool-is-important-children-learning-stem-with-excitement
Photo credit: Detroit Public Schools Community District

Every PreK student at DPSCD also has access to engaging field trips with local organizations like Cranbrook, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and The Henry Ford. “Through partnerships such as PNC Grow Up Great, our youngest learners have the opportunity to be out in the community, experiencing everything that Detroit and Detroit metro have to offer,” says Mattea.

Health-promoting experiences are essential for preschoolers

At DPSCD, meals and snacks are provided for PreK students at no cost to families. Through the support of DPSCD’s Office of School Nutrition, students and their families are served through several DPSCD Farm-to-School Initiatives. These programs support PreK family-style meals in a nurturing environment that focuses on health and well-being.

A seamless kindergarten transition is ideal

“There’s always a lot of discussion about PreK to kindergarten transition,” says Mattea. “If you are in a preschool, how do you make that strong connection to kindergarten? Here, this is built into the fabric of what we do.”

Because DPSCD preschool classrooms are integral to the larger school community from day one, and not in an independent location, preschool students enjoy a rich handoff experience through a variety of transition events, including visiting kindergarten classrooms and eating lunch with kindergartners. There are also authentic opportunities for PreK students and families to interact with kindergarten teachers, down to seeing them in the hallways.

“We also have a no-cost Kindergarten Bootcamp, a four-week interactive learning experience that assists parents and students as they prepare for kindergarten.” says Mattea. Tolbert personally vouches for Kindergarten Bootcamp because her son, now a first grader, attended before he started kindergarten. “The Bootcamp isn’t just for kindergartners, but for their parents, too, and that made it easy to have a clear sense of what school feels like, what rhythm it follows,” she says.

PreK should welcome your entire family

Your child learns and plays in the classroom, and the community experience should include your whole family. This is a benefit only a large, well-supported district like DPSCD can provide. “It’s our goal to support families in becoming part of our school community earlier by providing a nurturing classroom experience for children and also for their whole families,” says Mattea. “Your child is not just attending PreK — you’re becoming part of the school community for kindergarten onward.”

What this means is that each family has access to the DPSCD Office of Family and Community Engagement’s seasonal Parent Academy catalog filled with workshops about curriculum, health and wellness for the whole family, plus jazz fests, nature camps and countless community events, Mattea says. “It’s a toolbox for families to be a champion for their child, an active member of the district community and have an awareness of resources available to them throughout the city and outlying areas,” she says.

“DPSCD is the best option for preschool in Detroit,” Tolbert adds. “It just is.”

Visit detroitk12.org/prek or call 313-347-8923 to learn more about free PreK at Detroit Public Schools Community District and apply. Children who turn 4 years old by Dec. 1, 2023, are encouraged to apply!

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Metro Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.

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