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Benton Harbor Area Schools offering free preschool

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -

If you have little ones at home, listen up! Benton Harbor Area Schools wants you to sign them up for free preschool.

“Our job here is to prepare kids for kindergarten and we want them to love learning,” said Kathy Sanders, a preschool teacher at Benton Harbor’s Discovery Enrichment Center.

Sanders’ has been teaching Benton Harbor’s youngest for 25 years.

“Preschool, to me, is the foundation of all future learning,” she said. “We want kids to love learning, so we have lots of books that we read kids; we give kids rich language, we teach kids how to get along in groups and how to work with other children. It’s just a really nice foundation for all future learning.”

And it’s a foundation built for free.

Parents stopped by the Discovery Enrichment Center on Friday to sign up their students-to-be.

Eligibility is based on income levels, but Sanders said pretty much anyone living in Benton Harbor qualifies.

School principal Leta Covington said free preschool is free knowledge.

“This is going to be parents’ first opportunity to bring your children into an educational setting and this will be their first exposure to school,” said Covington.

The preschool program is offered through the Great Start Readiness Program and Tri-County Head Start.

While Benton Harbor has had preschool for the last couple decades, Sanders said the program has a new name and curriculum.

But like her, many of the teachers at the school have been around for years.

“We have really, really strong relationships with families,” said Sanders. “So that helps build trust and, so, parents are willing to – and want to – bring their kids here, because they know when they come through these doors, they’re going to be safe, loved, and educated.”

You can stop by the Discovery Enrichment Center in Benton Harbor at any time to see if you qualify for the program.

Bring your child’s birth certificate and proof of your income (a 2016 tax return, 2016 W-2, or two months of current pay stubs).

Sanders said the preschool program currently runs Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 2:40 p.m., but she said the times are subject to change.

In addition to meeting income guidelines, your child has to be 4-years-old by September 1, 2017 to be eligible for school this coming fall. 

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