Registration for next year's lottery-funded pre-kindergarten classes starts Monday at most Columbia County elementary schools.
Parents will have until March 19 to register their children for a pre-k program at the school in which they are zoned.
Typically, about 100 pupils will be submitted for a pre-k slot at each school, but only 20 pupils are allowed in each of the county's 18 pre-k classes.
In year's past, drawings for pre-k slots were conducted at the schools hosting those classes across multiple days. But starting this year, on March 29, all drawings will be held at the county's Board of Education office on Hereford Farm Road.
"We'll start at 8 a.m., taking each school alphabetically," said Michelle Sherman, the school system's director of elementary education. "I'm guessing it will take 15 to 30 minutes per school."
Other changes to the drawing process include assigning a four-digit identification number to each registered pupil, a measure for double-checking that parents registered at their zoned school, and a measure to make sure none of the registration cards are bent or folded.
The lottery process came under fire in 2007 after some parents accused some school administrators of marking some registration cards to increase their likelihood of being drawn.
Sherman said principals now will check to make sure no cards have been folded. Parents who fold cards will be called by the school and offered a second opportunity to register again with a new card.
System administrators also will check to make sure no cards are folded or marked prior to the March 29 drawing.
"We really worked hard to take out any possibility that there might be any indiscretion," Sherman said.
On each registration card is a box school secretaries must check after they have verified that the registering parent lives within the school's zone.
All but three elementary schools -- Steven's Creek, Riverside and Blue Ridge -- offer a pre-k program. Parents residing in Steven's Creek Elementary's zone still can register for pre-k classes at River Ridge Elementary. Riverside parents can go to Greenbrier Elementary, and Blue Ridge parents can register at Evans Elementary.
Once a pupil is registered and an identification number is assigned to him or her, the parents will be sent a letter including that number.
Those numbers from the drawing will be posted the next day on the schools' Web sites, in school offices and on each schools' front doors so parents can check to see if their child was chosen.
"I feel like we have considered every possibility and accounted for all human errors," Sherman said.
Anyone with questions re-garding the registration should contact the elementary school for which they are zoned. Registrations will be accepted during school hours.
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