Colorado to reopen all preschool applications to families because of errors

A boy rides a tricycle on the playground of the preschool at Laradon in north Denver.
Colorado officials are planning to reopen preschool applications so families can make changes in the next few days. (Ann Schimke/Chalkbeat)

State officials will allow nearly 25,000 families who’ve submitted applications for Colorado’s new free preschool program to reopen them and make changes on them because the application system initially showed incorrect offerings for some preschools. 

Families will be notified by email — possibly as early as Thursday or Friday — that their applications have been unlocked and that they can re-rank their five preschool choices or make different choices altogether, said Hope Shuler, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Early Childhood. 

They’ll have until Feb. 14, the last day of the first application window, to make changes and resubmit their applications.  

The decision to reopen preschool applications for thousands of parents represents a bump in the rollout of the state’s universal preschool program, which some providers and parents have criticized as rushed and confusing. 

Shuler said some preschools participating in the new program didn’t realize they had to list the specific number of seats they have in each category — half-day morning, half-day afternoon, full-day, and so on. Those errors meant that families may have signed up for preschool offerings that aren’t available.

“I’m not placing blame on providers. I’m not taking all the blame on us as a department for not being more specific,” Shuler said. “It’s a new program and there are growing pains.” 

The state notified preschools on Jan. 30 that they needed to update their seat numbers by Feb. 6. Staff working for the state have manually made those corrections this week. 

Although the errors affected a subset of the nearly 25,000 applicants, she said the department is allowing everyone to make revisions because some parents incorrectly believed it was a first-come, first-served system and rushed through their preschool applications the day the system opened Jan. 17. 

Since then, 151 more preschools have signed up to participate, so parents who make revisions now may have more choices than they did the first time. 

The new preschool program launches next fall and will offer 10 to 30 hours a week of class time to 4-year-olds and 10 hours a week to some 3-year-olds. 

The first application window for universal preschool runs through Feb 14. Families who submitted applications during that window will find out around March 17 what preschool their child was matched with. The state plans to offer a second application window starting Feb. 15, but hasn’t decided on the end date yet. 

Ann Schimke is a senior reporter at Chalkbeat, covering early childhood issues and early literacy. Contact Ann at aschimke@chalkbeat.org.

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