Parents of young children want options when it comes to preschool.

According to Lynn Jenc, Community Education director for Alexandria School District 206, they also want quality education that is affordable. A structured curriculum is also important, along with up-to-date technology and personalization.

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"Parents really want it all," said Jenc. "And we do our best to provide what we can."

Jenc presented information to the Alexandria School Board this past Monday night. When it comes to early education, Jenc explained some of the differences in the programs. Early Childhood Family Education, which is commonly known as ECFE, is for children birth to 5-years-old and a parent is required to attend as well.

The school readiness program, which is what most consider "preschool," is for children ages 3 to 5. The options are plentiful when it comes to how many days a week and how many hours a student can attend preschool. There are all-day, every-day options, as well as two-day a week options, three-day a week options and half-day options.

And then there is the early childhood special education program. The home-based program is for children birth to 2-years-old and the center-based program is for ages 3 to 5.

Jenc also shared about preschool trends, such as the U.S. is ranked 29 out of 36 when it comes to preschool enrollment rates, there are 68 percent of 4-year-olds attending preschool nationally, versus 86 percent internationally. She noted that in France, Norway, Germany and Sweden, 90-plus percent of 4-year-olds are in some type of preschool program.

She said that the presidential candidates have picked up on the trends of early childhood education on the international level and that there is now more of a focus to get more children nationally involved in some type of early education program.

Locally, the enrollment numbers for children ages 3 to 5 have steadily increased over the last few years. During school year 2012-2013, there were a total of 146 3-5 year olds enrolled in preschool. So far this school year, 2016-2017, there are 197 students enrolled.

"We will be adding to this as we always see a wave of students enroll in October," said Jenc. "Parents come to realize that maybe their child is ready and maybe they should attend."

She said currently, there are still some openings, although there are no openings at this time for 3-year-olds.

As early childhood moves forward for the current school year, Jenc said they will continue to focus on programming, small group learning, keeping it affordable with the option of scholarships, partnering with the community and making sure there are options for parents.

She concluded by saying, "In preschool, we learn through play and that is what students at that age should be doing."

BY THE NUMBERS

Total enrollment for 3-5 year olds in Alexandria School District 206

2012-13: 146

2013-14: 147

2014-15: 168

2015-16: 178

2016-17: 197