Pre-K May Require Lottery

The Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center will continue to provide the East Hampton School District’s full-day prekindergarten program, but should demand exceed capacity, district officials warned Tuesday that a lottery format would be used to select students for the program.

The school board approved a contract for 54 students to attend the Eleanor Whitmore Center’s pre-K at a cost of $9,100 per student, for a total of $491,400. If more than 54 sign up for the program, the district will go to a lottery system in which each child will be assigned a number and numbers will be drawn at random. In the case of twins or siblings of the same age, one number will be assigned to the two children together, so that if that number is drawn, two classroom seats would be provided.

“I want to be very clear about that. . . . There’s no first-come, first-served basis,” Richard Burns, the superintendent, said before the contract was approved.

This time last year, East Hampton approved its first contract with Eleanor Whitmore for full-day prekindergarten for 54 students, but eventually saw more than 60 students enroll when registration opened in May. After a brief time in which a waiting list was established, all of the students who signed up were eventually accommodated in the program. That may not be the case next year.

“We’re trying to communicate it more clearly,” J.P. Foster, the school board president, said Tuesday.

Registration for prekindergarten will run from May 2 through May 20 this year and will take place in the East Hampton district office. More details will be forthcoming from the district as it finalizes the days and times parents may come in to sign up.

East Hampton chose the Whitmore Center over the Country School in Wainscott, which also responded to a recent open request for prekindergarten proposals. Representatives of both schools made presentations to the school board in March. According to Isabel Madison, East Hampton’s assistant superintendent for business, the Country School initially proposed a tuition rate of more than $10,000 per student, but was later willing to match Eleanor Whitmore’s rate. The Eleanor Whitmore Center, formerly called the East Hampton Day Care Learning Center, operated the school district’s half-day prekindergarten program for many years.

Mr. Burns said the district opted for Eleanor Whitmore because he and his colleagues “really felt very comfortable with their program, and their curriculum is already aligned very well with ours. We were very pleased with them, over all.”