Anxious parents and grandparents gathered at Maxwell Elementary School last Thursday to see if their child's name would be drawn to attend the lottery-funded pre-kindergarten program there.
"Thank you, Jesus," Sheila Turman shouted when her granddaughter, Paris Hart's name was drawn.
After the drawing, Ms. Turman said she'd been praying that Paris would be chosen. Evidently, the prayers worked, because Paris' name was fourth to be drawn.
The drawing is held each year because there are more registered students than space in the classroom. Maxwell Elementary had 100 state-funded slots this year -- 20 more than last year, thanks to a grant acquired by McDuffie County Schools Federal Programs Director Mychele Rhodes.
"At this point, we used to only have two more slots to draw for," Principal Donna Bennett said as she was drawing the 78th name. "But now we have five classes. Thank you, Dr. Rhodes, for that."
Seventeen of the slots were predesignated by officials for special needs students and faculty members' children. Mrs. Bennett said 86 completed registration packets were received for the remaining slots, and the names were put into the pool. After the 83 slots were filled, the remaining names were drawn for their order on the waiting list. Incomplete registration packets and completed packets turned in after the deadline automatically went on the waiting list. Mrs. Bennett said the waiting list is always used because families relocate.
But that was not reassuring for those who waited Thursday. Many parents raised their arms victoriously or exchanged high fives or hugs with family members as their child's name was called out.
"Oh, it is good," Dianne Kendricks said when her grandson, Fabian Kendrick's name was drawn. "He needs to be in school. He's ready. Every day, he gets out his book bag and says he wants to go to school. He's going to hug me like I don't know what when I get home and tell him." The pre-k program readies the children for school by teaching them social and communication skills, and fosters their desire to learn by introducing educational concepts.
The state funds 40 pre-kindergarten slots at each school. Maxwell receives double that number because of the re-organization of grades between Maxwell and Thomson Elementary schools a few years ago.
"I wish we could enroll every child in our pre-k, and I look forward to the day we can," Mrs. Bennett said. "It's always great to see children who are so happy to be included in school. ... By the looks of it, we are going to have a great 2010-2011 K-4 class."
Dearing Elementary School did not need to hold a drawing this year, as they had a total of 39 completed packets turned in for their 40 slots, according to administrative professional Mona Hudson.
Students may attend state-funded pre-k at a participating childcare center, all of which use the same curriculums the state offers the elementary schools.