Do you have preschooler at home? Deadline for Miami-Dade Public Schools VPK is coming

If you have a preschooler at home, listen up: You have until Friday, Feb. 23 to apply to the voluntary pre-kindergarten program, or VPK for short, in Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

Through the program, which is free, children learn the “foundation skills” in reading, math and socio-emotional development needed for kindergarten and beyond, said Lynn Maceyras, the administrative director for the school district’s Early Childhood Department.

“Data shows that 90% of a child’s brain is already developed by age 5 so we want to make sure we capitalize on that,” she said. “Data also shows VPK participants have a higher rate of graduating high school than other students.”

Children must be 4 years old on or before Sept. 1 of any year to enroll.

VPK is offered in 212 schools across the county; most schools have about 19 to 38 slots open. The program usually runs from 8:20 a.m. to 1:50 p.m. But if needed, children can participate in after-school programs until 6 p.m., Maceyras said.

To apply, first search your nearest school that offers VPK. You can do so by inputting your home address on this database and filtering for ”Pre-Kindergarten” in the school type. Then you’ll have to visit the school in person to make sure you add your name to the list of families interested.

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Each of the 212 schools that offer VPK hold a lottery — any randomized process similar to pulling pieces of paper from a hat — at 9 a.m. Friday. School staffers will then notify families via email or mail if they were selected in the following days, Maceyras said.

If any schools have remaining seats, principals will notify the school district, which will then create an online selection process in which families that didn’t get into their assigned school can opt for one. The school district will send a QR code March 18 for those families.

In the online process, parents or guardians will select their top three choices and then the district employees will match the families on the waitlists with available VPK seats of their liking.

“Our biggest mission is we want everyone to have a space,” Maceyras said. “We want everyone’s transition to kindergarten to be seamless.”