Several public school districts in Champaign County 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 factors when considering which students qualify 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 speech development.
Parents are encouraged to call their school district to schedule a preschool screening in advance of their child’s third birthday. Most districts have dedicated screening days and will work to get your child seen as close to their third birthday as possible; however, be aware that the number of screening appointments can fill quickly.
Urbana Early Childhood School (2202 E. Washington St., Urbana) enrolls eligible students ages 3-5 living in Urbana District 116. Students attend for 2-1/2 hours per day. To set up a screening appointment, call the school at (217) 384-3616. UECS also houses the CU Early program, serving families with children under the age of 3 in Champaign, Urbana and Mahomet school districts. Staff from CU Early bring free child wellness and school readiness activities to families in their home.
Champaign Early Childhood Center (809 N. Neil St., Champaign) provides free developmental screenings for children residing in Champaign, Savoy or Bondville (the Unit 4 school district). Children ages 3-5 who qualify for free preschool at CECC are placed in classrooms with combined general- and special-education students. Enrollment in the morning or afternoon session is based on the availability of spaces. Parents can call the school at (217) 351-3881 or visit the CECC main office to be placed on their screening list.
The Middletown Preschool Program (1301 S. Bulldog Dr., Mahomet) offers 2-1/2 hours of preschool daily for qualifying children ages 3-5 living within the Mahomet-Seymour school district. To provide typically developing peers in each classroom, limited tuition-based openings are also available. For more information or to schedule a screening time, call (217) 586-5833.
SPECTRUM is a preschool program for children living in rural Champaign County. It has sites in Thomasboro, Philo and St. Joseph. Children ages 3-5 who reside in one of the 10 member districts of the Rural Champaign County Special Education Cooperative (RCCSEC) may receive a quarterly preschool screening to determine eligibility for the program. Contact the SPECTRUM program director at (217) 469-2291 for more information.