If your child is 4 years old on or before August 31st they may qualify for the free pre-K program offered through Shelby County Schools.  These programs are for “at risk” children but apparently if they do not get enough kids to fill a classroom they will add in “typical” (not at risk) children.  The application and screening process is runs from February through May.  For more information visit the Early Childhood Program page of the SCS website.


Four year olds who are “above average” may qualify for the SCS CLUE (Creative Learning in a Unique Environment) Program (my review) for “gifted and talented” children.  Pre-school CLUE meets for 2.5 hours twice a week.  The testing at this age does not involve reading, so it’s easier to get into the program (once your child is in elementary school they need to be reading two grades above their grade level to qualify for CLUE), and once they get in they stay in until third grade testing (many children drop out at this point as they do not meet the qualifications).  To get your four year old tested you need to call Dr. Tommie Yelvington, Lead Teacher in the CLUE Program at (901) 416-0155.

This program is offered at a few elementary schools.  One is Downtown Elementary and you can see the teachers website here.

Here’s what some moms had to say about this process and the programs:

Pre-Kindergarten Program

  • They will have to call Early Childhood department and they will give you the list of schools that are doing it. It’s not for only children with special needs. They will call you to bring your child in for a screening to see what they know. My friend is a Pre-K teacher.
  • the sad part is your child must FAIL the pre-screening interview to qualify… my child was enrolled in pre-k…luckily she was too shy to answer questions 
  • My daughter was the “typical” peer in the spec ed preschool at Chimneyrock! It was amazing for her!
  • The regular pre-k program has a screening process. I believe it goes based on their test score first (lower testing students have priority, to get them ready for K), but it’s also income based as well. You can go to the school of your choice and fill out an application. They will contact you to bring the child in for testing. If you’re child is special needs, you need to go through Colonial for testing and they assign them to a school with special ed pre-k classes.
  • The Pre k kids have to qualify (at risk) based on testing. But there are other programs, like attending as a ‘typical’ in a special education class, taking part in the 4 year-old CLUE class (which you also must qualify for).
  • Yes the pre-k program is geared to at-risk kids by mandate of the state legislature. It’s not designed or funded as a universal (available to all kids) program. If you want that to change, tell your legislator.
  • the “typicals” in the special Ed preschool are there because they want the special kids to have good language models / role models