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Many Colorado parents have begun to select their children’s K-12 schools for next year through online platforms operated by their school districts. 

But not preschool parents.

That’s a change from years past, when parents could use the school choice process to enroll their 4-year-olds in district-run preschool programs.


Now, with the state’s universal preschool launching next fall, most parents will apply for preschool using a new and separate online application that opens Jan. 17. Social media posts and questions fielded by district officials suggest the separate application process and timeline has jangled the nerves of some preschool parents. 

“They’re confused. They don’t know why it’s different,” said Mackenzie Nickum, the director of enrollment services in the Jeffco district, where the K-12 enrollment window runs from Dec. 6 to Jan. 13.

The short answer is that the state is doing something brand new — rolling out a taxpayer-funded preschool program open to all 4-year-olds and some younger children. The new program will replace a smaller state-funded preschool program for children from low-income families or who have other risk factors. 

Colorado early childhood leaders have been working for months to build the new program, including a statewide application system that will match children with participating preschool providers their parents choose. 

The application will be “almost as easy as buying on Amazon,” said Lisa Roy, executive director of the Colorado Department of Early Childhood. “This is a start-up, but we have really taken into consideration what works for parents.” 


Melanie Asmar has covered Denver Public Schools for Chalkbeat Colorado since 2015. Asmar previously worked at Westword newspaper in Denver and for a daily newspaper in New Hampshire, where she covered education. Chalkbeat is a nonprofit...