Lily Gibson joyously pumped her fists in the air when her grandson won a pre-kindergarten slot at Grovetown Elementary School.
Gibson was one of the few parents or guardians to attend the inaugural drawing for pre-k slots to be held at the Columbia County school system's central office on Hereford Farm Road.
"I'm so happy," said Gibson, who works at the central office as a custodian. "This will make everything so much easier."
As a pre-k pupil in a public school, Gibson's 4-year-old grandson, Aliex Carey, can ride the bus to school. In a previous drawing, Gibson's granddaughter, L-Anya Carey, failed to win a slot and attended pre-k at an area preschool, where she had to be driven and picked up each day.
This year's drawing marked a change for the way the school system held the pre-k lottery. Previous drawings for pre-k slots were conducted at the schools holding those classes across several days. Officials believe the scattered procedures led to too much confusion among parents.
For the first time Monday, the lotteries for all the schools were consolidated into a single event at a central location.
"Everything is going well," said school system Director of Elementary Education Michele Sherman, who conducted the drawing. "We haven't had a whole lot of people attend, but everything has been running smoothly."
In addition to conducting the drawing for slots in the lottery-funded pre-k program at the system's main office, other changes made to the drawing process included the assignment of a three-digit identification number to each registered pupil, double-checking that parents registered at their zoned schools, and officials making sure none of the registration cards were bent or folded.
The lottery process came under fire in 2007 when some parents accused some school officials of marking registration cards, making them easy to spot during the drawing process to favor some children's chances of getting pre-k slots.
Monday, drawings for pre-k slots were conducted one school at a time in the central office's auditorium. Cards representing each registered pupil at the school were mixed up in a raffle drum. Sherman then took out one card at a time and read aloud the pupil identification number, which was checked by three other school officials and entered into a computer database.
Once all the pre-k slots from each school were filled, Sherman continued drawing cards, putting each pupil in the order they were picked for the waiting lists.
Katina Zee's 3-year-old son Jaden was number 47 on the waiting list at Lewiston Elementary School.
With diminished hope that her son will attain a pre-k slot at Lewiston, Zee said she will start looking for area preschools offering the lottery pre-k program.
"It establishes a good foundation for pupils getting ready to enter school," Zee said of the pre-k program. "I wish he would have made it into Lewiston so he could have gotten used to the school, but it is still worth it to get him into a program somewhere else."
Pupil identification numbers showing if they got in or where they placed on the waiting lists were uploaded to schools' Web sites and posted on school doors Tuesday.
Those with questions concerning the pre-k program or drawing should call the registration hot line at (706) 541-1829.
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