In anticipation of being awarded state preschool aid, the Montclair school district is rolling out information and pre-applications for those interested in enrolling 3- and 4-year-olds in free preschool.

District administrators expect to hear if Montclair has been accepted into the state program on or around Tuesday, Sept. 6, according to information posted on the district website. In September 2021, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that the state would commit to providing universal pre-K to all families across the state over the next several years

If the aid is received, the district will open a full-day program for 60 preschool students on Oct. 3, free to Montclair residents. Selection will be made by lottery, and all six classrooms will be taught by certified and licensed teachers, the website says. 

“The Montclair school district’s vision is to create a preschool program where children are encouraged to learn and grow by providing a foundation of developmentally appropriate experiences in a safe and nurturing environment,” the website says. “It is our belief that each child is a unique individual and that all children can learn.”

The lottery applications, linked on the district website, must be submitted by Sept. 14. Children who will be 3 or 4 on or before Oct. 1 are eligible for the program. Families will then be notified of their lottery status on or before Sept. 16, according to the website.

Each lottery entry will be assigned a number and numbers will be randomly selected for the available openings. 

District staff will be attending community events in the coming weeks to “ensure equitable access to the application,” the website says. 

“We are advertising this exciting news in anticipation of receiving the award, but cannot confirm the enrollment until award notice is received,” the website says. 

Any students already in the tuition-based preschool program will be automatically enrolled in the new program. Schools Superintendent Jonathan Ponds has not yet responded to an email sent Friday asking how many spots will be available for new students in the free program once the existing students are accounted for. 

The preschool locations will include the already established Developmental Learning Center, Nishuane School, Montclair Community Preschool and the Geyer Family YMCA, according to the district website. The classrooms will be “inclusive of students with varied abilities, interests, needs and learning styles.” 

The preschool will run for six hours each day with start and end times dependent on placement locations, the website says.