It’s no surprise that the District 91 tuition-free preschool is already filled to capacity for this year. D91 listened and responded to what Forest Park parents needed. Ninety children, age 3-5, have enrolled in the district’s morning and afternoon half-day sessions.
What a resourceful way to boost enrollment and absorb excess capacity caused by the exit of 25 percent of Forest Park’s children from the village in the last 10 years.
Neighboring Berwyn has been offering universal preschool for years, understanding that parents of young children are drawn to communities with affordable housing stock, inexpensive rent and responsive education.
Free preschool makes Forest Park even more attractive to young parents already drawn to the kid-friendly park district, playing fields, and swimming pool.
For working families, preschool and/or daycare between birth and kindergarten is one of the biggest household expenses, devouring the income of a working parent. Children raised in the early years by grandparents or in informal daycare arrangements often enter school at a disadvantage. Universal preschool exposes children early to academic concepts such as numbers, letters, colors, and teaches soft skills like paying attention, respectful discourse and emotional regulation.
It’s no wonder that when the board voted in February to adopt the program, Superintendent Lou Cavallo called it, “one of the greatest single things we could do to improve student performance overall.”
We are also impressed by the collaboration between the Park District of Forest Park and the school district. The preschool program will help the park district define their services as they develop the Roos parcel. Even the library hopes to chip in with an early-reader initiative in their strategic plan.
This collaboration for the enrichment of our local children can only bring good things to Forest Park and we applaud this move by D91.