Chicago’s Preschool Application Is Open

Now is the time to secure that preschool spot for the fall.

Fall enrollment has begun in Chicago. Children who will be 3 and 4 by September 1, 2021, are eligible to apply for a Chicago Early Learning program at one of the 600-plus Chicago Public Schools (CPS) or community-based preschools across the city.

There’s no joy like it. Your little one runs up to you after their day at preschool excited to share what they learned that day with you. “Look what I can do!” they say as they grab a crayon and paper to write their name or bring a book over to read to you for the first time.

After a year of remote learning and preschool closures, the importance of early learning means much more this enrollment season. Parents and children have overcome the challenges of remote learning — and now look forward to making up for the time lost in the classroom.

Time to enroll

Now, the time has arrived for families to secure their child’s seat at a preschool program for the fall. Preschool enrollment is open to every child in Chicago for the 2021-2022 school year — offering a fresh start for Chicago’s preschoolers.

Families can begin the application process at where they can enter their ZIP code to find programs near them, learn more about programs and get tips on the application before applying.

When exploring the preschool options, families can choose between CPS and community-based preschool programs. CPS offers free, full-day Pre-K for children who will be 4 years old by September 1, 2021, and limited half-day options for 3-year-olds.

Community-based preschool programs are citywide and offer no-cost to low-cost, high-quality programs year-round for children as young as 6 weeks. Pricing for these programs is based on family income.

Safe learning environments

There are safe in-person early learning options available for every 0–5-year-old in Chicago. Both CPS and community-based preschool programs also take daily precautions to protect the health of their students and their families by including enhanced cleaning and safety protocols, face masks for all staff and students 3 and older and a daily health screener.

A child’s brain capacity is 90% developed by the age of 5, a statistic that causes parents to be concerned for their children falling behind, which makes matters even more pressing. It’s a concern shared by Montclare parent Jackie Marshall. 

“After this year I was worried that my little one was falling behind. They learned some things around the house, but it wasn’t the same,” says Marshall. “They missed their friends. They missed their teachers. And I missed the peace of mind knowing my child was learning new skills from dedicated teachers in a safe environment. Not to mention our family’s normal routine.”

As August approaches, parents feel more confident with the measures taken by the Chicago Early Learning programs across the city, programs that made strides with their health and safety protocols.

“In doing research and speaking with program directors at preschools in my area, I’m very encouraged by the strides they’ve made to make their site safe and to protect their educators and families,” Marshall says.

This year has provided challenges for parents like never before. The magic of early learning that happens in high-quality preschool programs throughout the city is made possible by Chicago’s dedicated and caring early childhood professionals. It’s magic that families and children can look forward to again, especially with the routine and consistency of a full school year in person.

Every early learning success story starts with an application.

The sooner families apply, the better the chances of getting into their preferred program — so don’t delay.

Apply to preschool today. Find the right program for your child and apply at or call the Chicago Early Learning Hotline at 312-229-1690. For the latest application updates and resources follow Chicago Early Learning on Facebook and Instagram.


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