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Our Children, Our City, Our Future.

Choose the program that's right for your family! There are high-quality early education options for every child from prenatal through 5 years old in every Chicago neighborhood.

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Program Types

CEL Orange Hands

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Programs

Age Group: 4 year olds with limited half-day spots for 3 year olds.
Many CPS elementary schools offer early learning programs as a part of their services.

LEARN MORE ABOUT CPS PRE-K

CEL Blue Hands

Community-Based Programs (Prenatal to Age 5)

Age Group: Prenatal to Age Five
Community-Based Early Learning and Preschool Programs include Head Start, Early Head Start, Infant-Toddler programs, Home-Visiting Programs and Doula Programs. Hours vary by site.

LEARN MORE ABOUT COMMUNITY-BASED PROGRAMS

Head Start and Early Head Start Programs

Community-Based Preschool and Early Learning Programs include, Head Start, Early Head Start programs which also include Prevention Initiative, or Early Intervention services. All Head Start and Early Head Start programs offer free health services (medical, dental, mental health), nutritious meals, as well as parent education and training.

To learn more visit our Community-Based Programs page here.

FIND A HEAD START/EARLY HEAD START PROGRAM

Teacher in Chicago Early Learning classroom reads to students

Ages Birth to 2

Infants and Toddlers

Community-Based Preschool and Early Learning Programs include Early Head Start, Prevention Initiative, or Early Intervention.

What do they provide?

  • Educational and social development activities that promote school readiness.
  • Head Start and Early Head Start Programs include free health services (medical, dental, mental health), nutritious meals, as well as parent education and training.

Need more information? Visit our Community-Based Programs page here.

Ages 3 and 4

Preschool

High-quality preschool programs are offered at both CPS Pre-Ks and Community-Based Preschool and Early Learning Programs with dedicated and accredited educators.

What do they provide?

  • Educational and social development activities that promote school readiness.
  • Either a half-day or a full-day of instruction.
  • Head Start programs include free health services (medical, dental, mental health), nutritious meals, as well as parent education and training.

Need more information? Visit CPS’ Pre-K Programs page here.

Preschooler plays with blocks in classroom

Ages 3 and 4

Preschool

High-quality preschool programs are offered at both CPS Pre-Ks and Community-Based Preschool and Early Learning Programs with dedicated and accredited educators.

What do they provide?

  • Educational and social development activities that promote school readiness.
  • Either a half-day or a full-day of instruction.
  • Head Start programs include free health services (medical, dental, mental health), nutritious meals, as well as parent education and training.

Need more information? Visit CPS’ Pre-K Programs page here.

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CPS New Enrollment Policy for Full Day 4-Year-Olds

There are four main factors that determine eligibility priority for every child applying for an early learning program. Chicago Early Learning programs prioritize enrollment based on children with the highest need first. The greater the need, the greater the chances are that a child will get into their top program choice.

Prioritized Points in Order:

1. Socioeconomic factors
Includes children in foster care, families in temporary living situations, and families with incomes below 100% FPL.

2. Siblings
Pre-K applicants applying to the same school where a sibling is currently enrolled in grades Pre-K through 8.

3. Kindergarten attendance area
Families applying to attend a child's kindergarten attendance area school.

4. Proximity
Families who live within 1.5 miles of the program.

Home Visiting Programs

Not sure if you're ready for your child to attend an in-person program? Look into our Home Visiting Program options, provided by Community-Based Preschool and Early Learning Programs, and Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

Home Visiting Programs are available to qualifying families of children age 3 and under. Certified coaches provide early care and consulting in the family's home. Find a program that offers home visiting by selecting 'Home Visiting' under 'Program Features' from the search filters.

EXPLORE HOME VISITING OPTIONS

Toddler plays at home with an early childhood education instructor

Home Visiting Programs

Not sure if you're ready for your child to attend an in-person program? Look into our Home Visiting Program options, provided by Community-Based Preschool and Early Learning Programs, and Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

Home Visiting Programs are available to qualifying families of children age 3 and under. Certified coaches provide early care and consulting in the family's home. Find a program that offers home visiting by selecting 'Home Visiting' under 'Program Features' from the search filters.

EXPLORE HOME VISITING OPTIONS

Think your child may need special education services?

Child in an Individualized Education Program paints in classroom

For CPS Pre-K Programs

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is developed for each public school child who needs specialized services. If you suspect that your child may need additional special education services, we encourage you to get a developmental screening to see if further evaluation is needed.

Developmental screenings can tell you if your child is having any difficulties with: hearing/vision, speech/language, problem-solving, social skills, fine/gross motor and/or listening/attending. Please attend a Child Find Team Screening Site to obtain a free developmental screening.

For CPS Pre-K Programs call 773-553-5410 or visit the Office of Diverse Learner Support and Services (ODLSS) website here.

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CPS's Virtual Academy Pre-K Program

CPS's Virtual Academy PreK program educates students citywide who have a medical condition (physical or mental health) that results in virtual learning being the best learning format. Interested families can find out more and apply at cps.edu/VirtualAcademy

For Community-Based Programs

Early Intervention (EI) or Individual Family Service Plans (IFSPs) are available to families with infants and children under three years old with developmental delays and disabilities. This can include speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or other services based on the child's needs.

Children who apply to Pre-K with IEPs have transitioned from Early Intervention and received a complete evaluation that has determined a need for Special Education support in the Preschool Setting.

In most cases, children who have received Early Intervention with no IEP have been determined to no longer need the support and can transition into Pre-K without needing Special Education. However, we recommend you consider these questions beforehand:

  • Did your child transition out of EI and receive an evaluation by the School District?

  • At your child's EI Transition meeting, was it determined that evaluation for SPED was recommended?

  • Did your child receive an IEP at their evaluation meeting?

For more information locate and contact a DHS Office or Service Provider here.

Child in an Individualized Family Service Plan learns through play with teacher

For Community-Based Programs

Early Intervention (EI) or Individual Family Service Plans (IFSPs) are available to families with infants and children under three years old with developmental delays and disabilities. This can include speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or other services based on the child's needs.

Children who apply to Pre-K with IEPs have transitioned from Early Intervention and received a complete evaluation that has determined a need for Special Education support in the Preschool Setting.

In most cases, children who have received Early Intervention with no IEP have been determined to no longer need the support and can transition into Pre-K without needing Special Education. However, we recommend you consider these questions beforehand:

  • Did your child transition out of EI and receive an evaluation by the School District?

  • At your child's EI Transition meeting, was it determined that evaluation for SPED was recommended?

  • Did your child receive an IEP at their evaluation meeting?

For more information locate and contact a DHS Office or Service Provider here.

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Age 5

Kindergarten

Children who are 5 years old by September 1st of the current school year are eligible and encouraged to enroll in kindergarten at a CPS elementary school.

ENROLL IN KINDERGARTEN

What Makes a Great Program?

Preschool students sitting together

Child-Friendly Spaces

A safe, child-friendly space for 20 preschoolers at most, with toys and materials indoors and outdoors

Chicago Early Learning teacher reads to students

Top-Notch Teachers

Attentive, engaged teachers with 4-year degrees, credentials, licensures, and training and 1:10 teacher-child ratios for Pre-K.

Preschool student engaging with teacher

Engaged Students

Variety in 1-on-1, small and full group age-appropriate activities, with meals and naptime, offered.

Child washes hands in classroom

And So Much More

Visitors welcomed with required safety measures, frequent handwashing by children and adults

Choosing the Right Program


Quality ratings for Chicago Early Learning programs, and programs across Illinois and the country, offer families more insight before they make final choices about a program for their child.