In an Unusual Twist, County’s Pre-K Program Still Has Openings for the New School Year That Begins on August 24; Still Time to Apply

Studies have shown that youngsters who begin their academic career by attending a pre-K program go on to graduate from high school at higher rates, are more likely to attend college, and earn more money as adults than those who do not attend pre-school.

Each year in Albemarle County Public Schools, more than 200 4-year-olds are able to attend pre-K programs for free at one of seven different elementary schools. For many years, the well-documented benefits of pre-K programs for a child’s academic and social and emotional development have resulted in more applications than seats, resulting in extended waiting lists, but not this year.

It’s easy to understand why the pre-K program, also known as Bright Stars, is so popular. In the program’s annual report right before the pandemic, 90% of parents reported that their child showed marked improvements in their language and motor skills, socialization, self-care, and problem-solving capabilities. More than 99% said they would recommend Bright Stars to other families.

This year, however, the usual waiting list has been replaced by more than 70 seats that currently are available. Lisa Molinaro, who oversees the program for the school division, says one of the reasons may be a more complicated application process that is emphasizing more online applications. Paper applications, however, still can be filed and are available at any of the elementary schools offering a program next year or from the county’s Department of Social Services.

There’s still time for parents to apply in time for the new school year, which begins on Wednesday, August 24. The division is hosting application fairs at each of its seven elementary schools that offer a pre-K program, starting tomorrow, July 20, with Scottsville. Mountain View will hold their fair this Thursday, July 21, and Greer will hold one on Friday, July 22. Next week, fairs at Agnor-Hurt, Red Hill, and Stone-Robinson will be on Wednesday, July 27, and at Woodbrook on Friday, July 29. Each fair is open from 8 a.m. to 6:30 in the evening.

The application fairs will enable families to register their child for a pre-K program. To be eligible, a child must be 4 years old by September 30, 2022. Eligibility is also based on income, so parents should bring with them proof of family income, such as a W-2 form (Wage and Tax Statement) or three months of pay stubs, as well as proof of residency, such as mortgage or lease information.

For more information or to complete an application online, families should visit or call Lisa Molinaro at 434-296-5820 and ask for her office. They also can email her at

CONTACT: Phil Giaramita, Strategic Communications Officer
PHONE: 434-972-4049