WAKE COUNTY, N.C. — Parents know pre-K is a big milestone as many kids head into a classroom for the first time. This fall, more than 1,500 students will benefit from a tuition-free pre-K program offered by Wake County, and next year, a similar opportunity will be available to even younger kids.


What You Need To Know

Wake County is planning to launch “ThreeSchool” in the fall of 2022

“ThreeSchool” is essentially a pre-K program for 3-year-olds

The goal is to prepare underserved children for kindergarten


Starting in the fall of 2022, Wake County will offer “Wake ThreeSchool,” which is essentially expanding their current pre-K program to 3-year-olds.

Destiny Wilson enrolled her oldest son, Jeremih, in the county’s current pre-K program and says she’s thankful to have had the opportunity to give a boost to his education. She says she’s constantly impressed by the things he’s learning.

“The reading thing is…he blew my mind with that," Wilson emphasized. "I wasn’t reading as good as he is when I was five, you know?”

Jeremih Wilson is also learning Spanish, American Sign Language and improving his social skills through Wake County’s pre-K program. “He was very nervous about making friends and being part of a community, like a family almost. The school brought that out of him and he was able to make more friends and be involved with people the same level as him, curriculum wise,” Wilson said.

Wilson says it’s very helpful the county’s pre-K is tuition free as she works toward her own educational goals. “When I’m doing classes, he will come into my room and go ‘Mom are you doing school work?’ Yes. I just want you to know I’m doing just as much as you are. If I can do it, you can do it too,” Wilson said.

In the meantime, she’s confident her son’s time in pre-K has helped prepare him for kindergarten in the fall.

“I’m very proud of him. I think he knows that. I threw a big party for him when he graduated … you have to celebrate the small stuff and he’ll never forget that milestone,” Wilson said.

As for Wake County’s ThreeSchool, officials are currently in the research phase in order to figure out which areas would benefit most and they’ll be selecting pilot sites based off that information. In the fall of 2022, they will start by serving up to 100 3-year-olds in four to five classrooms.

Gayle Headen, the executive director of Wake County Smart Start (WCSS), says this new program will have a positive ripple effect once those students reach kindergarten.

“Children will then enter kindergarten ready to learn. The whole classroom benefits. Now the teacher can spend less time catching up and more time moving forward to build on those skills learned in early childhood,” Headen said.

Headen says 91% of kids who spend one year in the current pre-K program are ready for kindergarten. The pre-K program and new ThreeSchool will continue to be income based as a way to increase access to quality early childhood education.

WCSS is now accepting applications for Wake County pre-Kindergarten (pre-K) Programs, including N.C. pre-K, Title I and Head Start. Click here to learn about eligibility requirements and the application process.