Several public school districts in the Champaign-Urbana area offer free preschool to students ages 3-5 who are at risk for developmental delays.
Early childhood programs in Champaign, Urbana, Mahomet, and several rural districts look at a number of different factors when considering which students are qualified for their programs.
Students can be at-risk due to many factors including socioeconomic status, having a sibling with a disability, receiving early intervention services and support and more. Each district determines if these factors could affect a student’s learning, pre-academic skills and social-emotional skills.
While income and home environment are factors on the list, numerous other components are considered including delays in cognitive skills (problem solving, reasoning, following multi-step directions), academic pre-readiness abilities (counting, knowing colors, shapes, recognizing their name), social-emotional skills, motor abilities and delayed speech development.
Parents are encouraged to call their respective school districts to schedule a preschool screening in advance of their child’s third birthday for a screening appointment. Most districts have dedicated screening days and will work to get your child as close to their third birthday as possible; however, at times, the number of screening appointments fill quickly.
Urbana Early Childhood School enrolls students ages 3-5 living in Urbana. The UECS also houses the CU Early program. CU Early staff bring child wellness and school readiness activities to families in their home who have children under the age of 3. To set up a screening appointment, call the school.
Champaign Early Childhood Center (809 N. Neil St., Champaign) provides a free developmental screening for children residing in Champaign, Savoy or Bondville. Children are asked to play with blocks, draw pictures and play with toys. They also take samples of a child’s language abilities. Staff will also complete an interview with parents. Enrollment is based on the availability of spaces. Parents can call or visit the CECC main office to be placed on their screening list.
Spectrum Program is a preschool program for children living in rural Champaign County. It has sites in Thomasboro, Philo and St. Joseph and serves students in Gifford, Fisher, Ludlow, Thomasboro, Unit 7 District, Prairieview-Ogden District, and Heritage School District.
The Middletown Preschool Program offers services for children ages 3-5 living within the Mahomet-Seymour school district. A tuition-based program is also available; spots are limited. Middletown Prairie Elementary additionally offers developmental screenings for children from birth to age 5. The screening process takes 60-90 minutes. To schedule a screening time, call 217-586-5833.
Be sure to check out other preschools in the Champaign-Urbana area here.