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Board divided on Pre-K lottery

The McDuffie County Board of Education declined to vote on changing the Pre-Kindergarten registration process to a lottery-based system last week.

In years past, parents have waited outside schools early in the morning to take advantage of the current "first come first serve" system. A lottery system would have eliminated those lines and given all parents an equal opportunity to enroll their child, but a motion made by Board Member Virginia Bradshaw didn't receive a second.

Board Member Jerry Randolph was outspoken in his opposition to the motion, saying that there wasn't enough time to notify parents of the changes, which would have been effective this year.

Board Member Georgia Hobbs agreed with Mr. Randolph. She said she feels the current system is adequate.

"I thought the current system was working well; Why mess it up?" she said.

However, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Kathy Collins recommended the change to the lottery system -- which is in place in both Richmond and Columbia counties -- because she said lines have been growing year by year at county elementary schools on registration day. This year, she said she felt like there would be more parents lined up in early morning hours than ever before.

"In years past, we didn't fill up, and there was no issue. We are anticipating (filling up) this year...last year there were some parents there before the teachers came. Rather than have parents come at very, very early times in the morning, we thought that we would see if we could do something different this year," she said.

At each elementary school, there are 40 available pre-k slots. Once those slots are filled up, students' names are put on a waiting list. With a lottery system, 40 names would be randomly selected from a pool, and those remaining would be put on a waiting list.

Ms. Hobbs said she didn't have a problem with parents waiting to get a slot for their child.

"Parents are willing to get in line and be first. We get in line and stand a day or two for concert tickets, why not for your child's education?" she said.

Mrs. Bradshaw said she would like to see a lottery in place to relieve some stress placed on school staffs on registration day.

"I think it's a good idea, and the reason is that it would eliminate everybody being there at one time," she said.

There are seven pre-k vendors in McDuffie County, both private and public. Registration day for Thomson and Maxwell Elementary is set for April 13, while Dearing Elementary is April 14.

Web posted on Thursday, March 18, 2004

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