What is Universal Prekindergarten (UPK)?
UPK is a free preschool experience made possible through grants from the New York State Education Department (NYSED). As long as the funding remains available and as long as the district has the human resources to coordinate the program, the district can offer the program.
Is the UPK program free?
Yes. The cost of tuition for those students selected through a lottery selection process is paid for by the grants. There are no fees paid by the family or the district for the five day a week half-day, full-day and expanded-day program.
What days are the children off from school?
Each UPK Provider creates their own school calendar modeled after the Valley Central School District calendar. Please be aware that there may be times when the calendars differ slightly – the Provider may have school on a day when the District does not have school and vice versa. In order to avoid conflicts, please be sure you have BOTH calendars so you are aware of any differences in days off and can plan accordingly. PLEASE NOTE: If your child’s UPK Provider has a delayed start, early dismissal or snow day, before and after care may not be available, but please check with your UPK Provider directly.
How long is the program?
All three UPK programs operate Monday through Friday, for 180 days (as per the district calendar). The half-day instructional program is 2 ½ hours per day. The full-day instructional program is 6 hours per day. The expanded-day program may include before and/or after care outside the 6 hour full-day instructional program.
Is the program run by the Valley Central School District?
The program is administered by the Valley Central School District but is offered at community based organizations (CBO’s), also referred to as “providers.”
Who is eligible? How do I apply?
Valley Central School District children who turn four (4) years of age on or before December 1st are eligible for the program. To apply, you must complete a Universal Prekindergarten Application. You may request an application by emailing UPK@vcsdny.org or pick one up at the Administration Building. For those who wish to be included in the lottery, applications must be received in our office no later than the application deadline in March. This allows proper processing for our April lottery. Children who turn five are not eligible per New York State regulations. We accept applications all year long. Applications received after the deadline will automatically be placed at the end of the waiting list.
If I hand in my application right away, does that improve my child’s chances of being selected?
No. All completed, eligible applications will be included in the lottery. It is best to wait to hand in your application until you have completed all the applicable forms in the application and have all of your documentation to submit with your application. Submitting documentation after handing in your application makes it more difficult for the UPK Office to process your application.
How does the lottery work for twins or triplets?
The lottery does not give preference to families with twins, triplets, etc. Each child is entered as an individual student and will be selected at random. The selection of one twin or triplet has no effect on the selection number of any other siblings during the lottery.
What happens if one of my twins is selected and one is placed on the waiting list?
We highly recommend that families with multiples pre-register their children at their first choice of UPK provider. Most of the UPK providers offer pre-registration in order to guarantee your child’s spot in September. If one twin is selected during the lottery and one is placed on the waiting list, it would be up to the parents/guardians to decide if they were able and willing to pay for the other twin to attend the same UPK provider. If both twins were already pre-registered you would be guaranteed two spots at that provider and wouldn’t have to worry that they couldn’t attend the same provider.
Can all district 4-year-olds attend?
No. The amount of funding the New York State Education Department allocates for these grants will determine how many students can be served. Typically, every year there are more applicants than the number of available spots, therefore, a lottery is used to determine who will participate. All students who are not selected during the lottery will be placed on a waiting list. If any vacancies occur during the year, they will be filled until the waiting list has been exhausted.
When will we know if the grant is going to be offered again?
As we move through the VCSD budget process, we will know if the grant funds and our human resources are sufficient to run the program. Please join us at the public meetings held during our budget development process to let us know what programs are important to you. Both the half-day and full-day grants are part of the NY state budget. The expanded-day grant was initially issued by the Federal government using American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds. It is unknown at this time if this funding will continue to be issued through the Federal government or if at some point it will be assumed by the NY state budget. Usually the state budget is adopted in April. Once the state budget is adopted, funds are allocated in May. Budget votes for all New York school districts take place on the 3rd Tuesday in May. After the state and local school budgets have been decided, we will know if the UPK program will be offered and for how many students.
When is the best time to drop off my application?
Completed UPK applications can be mailed to or dropped off at the Central Office Administration Building, located at 944 State Route 17K, Montgomery, NY 12549. The front desk accepts applications from 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM. UPK staff are unable to answer questions or personally accept your application if you choose to drop it off in-person. If you have any questions, please call (845-457-2400 x18134) or email the UPK Office at UPK@vcsdny.org before mailing or bringing your application to the Central Office Administration Building.
How will I know if my child has been chosen?
The lottery usually takes place in April to determine which students will start the program in September. All applicants will be notified via email and asked to confirm receipt of the email. If your child is selected for one of the spots in the program, the email will identify the UPK Provider where your child has been placed. If your child is not selected for one of the spots, the email will indicate your child has been placed on the waiting list. If we do not receive confirmation that you received the email, we will then attempt to reach you by phone and finally, if necessary, by a letter mailed to your home.
If selected, which UPK Provider will my child attend?
During the application process, you will indicate which UPK class is your 1st choice, 2nd choice, 3rd choice, etc. We will place students in their first choice unless that class is full or your child has certain medical needs, physical needs or receives services that dictate they be placed at a specific UPK Provider. If your child does not have any medical or physical needs and does not receive any services and their first choice is full, then we will move to the second choice, then the third choice, etc. until a placement is available.
How will my child’s medical needs, physical needs and/or need for services (speech, OT, PT) affect which UPK Provider my child will attend?
If your child is selected for UPK and has any medical needs, physical needs or receives services that have been documented by a physician and/or are on your child’s IEP, and we are able to meet those needs at a specific UPK Provider, your child will be placed at that provider regardless of your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, choice etc. Your child’s medical and physical needs as well as any services they receive may dictate which provider they will need to be placed at. If your child develops any medical or physical needs or begins receiving services after they have already been placed at one of the UPK Providers, we retain the right to switch your child’s placement to the UPK Provider where those needs or services can best be met regardless of the time of year.
Can we choose the location we want our child to go to?
You can indicate on your application your 1st, 2nd, 3rd choice, etc. of the classroom you would like. We will make every attempt to accommodate your request unless your child’s medical and/or physical needs dictate which provider they will need to be placed at. We cannot guarantee placement at a specific provider.
How does the waiting list work?
If, for any reason, a child drops out of the UPK program, the next family on the waiting list will be offered the vacant spot. If the family declines the vacancy for any reason, they will be removed from the waiting list and no longer eligible to participate in the UPK program.
What is the expanded-day program?
The expanded-day program offers a longer day that may include before and/or after care outside the 6 hour full-day instructional program, at no cost to the family. At this time the only three UPK providers that participate in the expanded-day program are Most Precious Blood School, School Time Children’s Center (Coldenham location) and School Time Children’s Center (Scofield location).
Can a parent pay out of pocket for before care and/or after care if their child is not selected for the expanded-day program?
All UPK providers, except Miss Cindy’s Neighborhood Nursery School, offer parents the option to pay out of pocket for before and/or after care. All questions regarding specific hours and costs for before care and after care should be addressed directly with the UPK provider. Please note, before and after care spots can fill up quickly, so if this is something you need, plan to contact your child’s UPK provider promptly after you receive notification that your child has been selected for UPK.
What if there is a custody situation regarding my child?
You must provide custody documentation from the courts when you submit your application. In addition, you must notify the UPK provider. We recommend that you follow up with the UPK provider to be sure that all the proper safeguards are in place.
What if my child has a severe allergy or other serious medical condition?
A Health Inventory Form and NYS School Health Examination Form are required as part of the UPK application. The UPK Nurse reviews these forms and if your child is selected for UPK you will meet with the UPK Nurse during the required hearing and vision screening. Any serious medical condition must be reported directly to the UPK Nurse and also to the UPK provider. We recommend that you follow up with the UPK provider to be sure that all the proper safeguards are in place.
What are the immunization requirements?
Children must receive all first age/grade level appropriate doses, or overdue follow-up doses if they already received prior doses in a series, within 14 days from the first day of instruction for the school year, and must provide evidence of age appropriate appointments for the next follow-up doses, in accordance with the ACIP schedule, within 30 days of the first day of attendance.
Is there a religious exemption for immunization requirements?
New York State no longer offers a religious exemption for immunizations.
Is there a medical exemption for immunization requirements?
Yes. A valid medical exemption must adhere to all of the following:
- Be submitted on a signed, completed medical exemption form issued by NYSDOH
- Specify which immunizations may be detrimental to the child’s health
- Contain sufficient information to determine if a medical contraindication to a specific immunization exists
- Specify the length of time the immunization is medically contraindicated
- Be reissued annually
The UPK nurse may require additional information beyond the items listed above.
What is taught in the UPK program?
All UPK providers that are contracted by the district must follow the New York State Prekindergarten Learning Standards and utilize the Teaching Strategies Creative Curriculum. Each UPK provider is permitted flexibility in how they choose to deliver the curriculum.
Does every UPK provider have to run identical programs?
Specific teachers, lessons and special events will vary by location. However, any UPK provider selected by the Valley Central Board of Education must adhere to state and local standards.
Is transportation available?
No. Families must provide transportation for their child. It is expected that students will be dropped off and picked up at the appointed starting and ending times for their particular class. All three grants pay for students to attend school for a specific amount of time each day school is in session, so it is not acceptable or permissible to repeatedly drop your child off late for class or pick them up early before class ends. If you regularly do not get your child to school on time or regularly pick them up before class ends, it may jeopardize your child’s continued enrollment in the UPK program.
Is lunch provided?
Students in the full-day and expanded-day programs should bring lunch to school with them each day.
Should my child be potty trained?
While it is not a requirement for children to be potty trained to participate in UPK, if you have not already started to potty train your child, we highly recommend you do so as it will make your child’s transition into UPK much smoother. Many families have found the eBook “3 Day Potty Training” by Lora Jensen to be a great resource. There may be a fee to purchase or download this file/eBook.
What is the difference in the lottery selection process for half-day, full-day and expanded-day?
Each grant is governed by laws on how students must be selected. Previously, laws dictated that priority be given to high needs students. Current law dictates that there be one, completely random lottery. All eligible applicants will be entered in the lottery and each will be randomly selected. Selected students will be placed in one of the UPK classes until all spots are full. All remaining students will be placed on a waiting list in the order they were selected.
Can I pre-register my child for a prekindergarten class now, even though the UPK lottery will not take place until April?
Yes. If you are definite about where you would like your child to attend UPK, we recommend you pre-register at that provider to guarantee your child a spot in September.
If I choose to pre-register my child now, and then my child is selected for UPK, what happens to the registration fee I paid when I pre-registered?
If you pre-register at one of the UPK providers the Valley Central School District contracts with for UPK services, and your child is selected for UPK, the UPK provider will refund the registration fee you previously paid. If however, you choose to pre-register your child at a prekindergarten provider that the Valley Central School District does NOT contract with for UPK services, and your child is selected for UPK, it is up to that prekindergarten provider to decide whether they will refund any registration fees you paid when you pre-registered your child.
If my child is placed on the waiting list, can I still pay to send my child to a prekindergarten class?
Yes. Please directly contact the prekindergarten provider you are interested in to enroll and pay for your child to attend prekindergarten at their school.
Are there class size limits for UPK?
The maximum UPK class size is 20 students. Classes with 19 or 20 students require one teacher and two paraprofessionals. Classes of 18 or fewer students require one teacher and one paraprofessional.