Paris District 95 will be able to serve additional children in pre-school programming this year, thanks to funding from the Illinois State Board of Education.

The state will fund 60 additional preschool spots to children in the district, with both half and full-day openings for children who will be 3-years-old by Sept. 1.

The district already serves more than 100 preschool students “and is excited to help more children get their academic journeys off to a successful start,” according to a district news release.

Programs begin Aug. 23.

Research shows the first five years of a child’s life are the most important in terms of brain development. Early educational experiences boost a child’s cognitive, language, social and emotional skills. These skills and knowledge boost a child’s confidence and create successful life-long learners.

Erika Hollis, instructional leader for the full-day preschool program, said the added seats are funded through a state grant focused on at-risk preschool children.

The community has high poverty levels, Hollis said. “To be able to offer families free and quality preschool programs for their children is so important in getting them started,” she said. “This is just another step in guaranteeing they will have the best chance to graduate from high school.”

The number for parents to call to sign their child up for one of the free spots is 217-465-8448.

Sue Loughlin has been a reporter at the Tribune-Star for more than 30 years. She covers general news with a focus on education.