Early Childhood Program

Assistant Superintendent of Early Childhood, PK-8 & Elementary Schools
Margaret Wilson
Matthew Carpenter

Cindy Watkins
Physical Address
1005 W. Fayette Street
4th Floor Syracuse, NY 13204
Contact Info
(315) 435-4276

Click here to enroll
Registration Requirements


Request for Proposals:

The Pre-K department will be accepting proposals (RFP) for the 2019-2020 school year in May 2019. If you would like the opportunity to be a collaborating agency with our Pre-K department, please click here to learn more.


To ensure that all children develop the necessary cognitive, social, emotional and physical skills that build the foundation for life-long learning and early literacy; this is accomplished by providing a high quality, safe and nurturing environment, responsive to the culturally diverse and unique needs of each child, through individual and interactive learning opportunities, supported by excellence in teaching and research-based instructional practices aligned with the NYS Learning Standards and the District’s curricula, in partnership with parents, staff, policy makers and community organizations.

Program Goals

  1. Enact a research-based, child centered curricula in alignment with the NYS Learning Standards and District’s content area curricula to ensure continuity of programming and a seamless transition to kindergarten.
  2. Create and sustain classrooms that develop critical thinking, cognitive, language, pre-literacy and motor skills, and social emotional growth.
  3. Establish strong parent/school partnerships.
  4. Implement research-based best practices in early childhood instruction, supported by effective professional development, across all programs.
  5. Work collaboratively with community early childhood educators to provide high quality educational programs for all resident preschoolers.
  6. Systematically measure children’s growth in the critical areas of child development and early reading to identify students who are in need of more intensive instruction and to modify instructional practices.



The Syracuse City School District has provided services to prekindergarten children since 1966. The program was funded through the New York State Education Department and included a required 11% local share. It has operated under the names of Experimental Prek, Targeted Pre-K and NYS Funded Pre-K over the years. The District was able to serve 3 and 4 year old children. This program structure operated for over 30 years serving only children who met income eligibility guidelines (qualified for free or reduced meals). Then in 1997, NY State legislation was passed to implement Universal Prekindergarten (UPK) across NY State. The design of this program was to ensure all age eligible 4 year old children would receive a prekindergarten program. Also, District’s were to seek collaborative partnership with Early Childhood providers within the community to provide UPK program to resident, age eligible 4 year old children. Initially the program blended both the Targeted Pre-K with Universal Pre-K and the District continued to be able to serve 3 and 4 year old preschool children. Currently the District offers Universal Prekindergarten and annually applies for a waiver to include a growing number of 3 year old children. The Syracuse City School District’s Early Childhood Program has received national and State recognition for its innovative parent involvement and inclusion programs.   

  • Universal Prekindergarten Program (UPK): UPK serves over 1400 District resident 4 year olds between community partnerships and District locations and nearly 750 District 3 year olds. This program is supported by NYSED grant and District funding. There are half and full day sessions offered in 19 school buildings and 14 community based organizations to operate UPK classes within their facilities. Currently, UPK agencies are operated in 22 locations around the City including 5 Head Start sites, 7 child care centers, and 8 nursery schools. UPK programming provides effective standards-based instruction for preschoolers and comprehensive services for their families. Additional classrooms within the Syracuse City School District as well as additional seats at collaborating agency partners were added under the following four programs:

    • State-Wide Universal Full Day Pre-K: This grant was implemented in the 2014-2015 school year and  provided for new seats as well as conversion (half day to full day) seats for four year olds.

    • Expanded Pre-Kindergarten for three and four year olds: This grant was awarded to the SCSD for the 2015-2016 school year.  This program provided new seats for three and four year olds across the city.

    • 3PK: This grant was applied for in August 2016 and we began programming for 3 year olds in the early months of 2017. This included converting half day seats to full day seats or creating new seats altogether for 3 year olds.

    • EPK3: This grant was applied for in fall 2018 and allowed for additional seats in our existing sites.
  • Inclusive Programs for Preschoolers with Disabilities: One of the early childhood program’s strengths is inclusive education. There are no self contained special education classes for preschoolers with disabilities as all children are included in our District pre-k classes. These programs operate in concert with the New York State Office of Early Learning and the Onondaga County Health Department’s Healthy Families office.

  • The Early Childhood Evaluation Center: provides comprehensive psycho-educational evaluations of children, ages 3 to 5 years, suspected of having a disability. These evaluations are conducted either in the child’s home, child care center or at the District’s evaluation center located in the Rockwest Building at 1005 W. Fayette Street.


Pre-K Student Age Programs

In the Early Childhood program it is important to pay careful attention to children’s ages.  For school purposes we categorize children as 3 year olds OR 4 year olds for the full year. We offer full and half day options for 3 year olds and 4 year olds. These delineations are especially important when assessing, planning, and transitioning children for the next school year.  Please review the chart below so you can correctly identify your students as a 3 yr OR 4 yr old:


For the 2019-2020 School Year

PRE-K - 3 Year Old

Child must be 3 by 12-1-19

Born between 12/2/15 and 12/1/16

PRE-K - 4 Year Old

Child must be 4 by 12-1-19

Born between 12/2/14 and 12/1/15

Kindergarten - 5 year old

Child must be 5 by 12-1-19

Born between 12/2/13 and 12/1/14

  • For more information call the Syracuse Early Childhood Program Office: (315) 435-4276

Click here for 3 year old sites (2019-2020)               Click here for 4 year old sites (2019-2020)

Syracuse City School District Early Childhood Program  Descriptions


UPK Classrooms in SCSD

Students: (18) 4 year old children in a full day program


Staff:1 certified teacher and 1 certified teaching assistant


UPK Classrooms in Contracting Community Agencies

Students:(18) 4 year old children in a full or half day program as approved within the agency’s contract


Staff:1 certified teacher and 1 certified teaching assistant/aide for every 18 children


EPK Classrooms:

Students:(18) 3 or 4 year old children in a full or half day program


Staff:1 certified teacher and 1-2 certified teaching assistant/aides for every 18 children.

Special Education Itinerant Teacher Classroom – (SEIT)

Students: 2 classrooms of (18)  3 and 4 year old children in a half or full day program


13 of the children are typically developing neighborhood children and 5 are children with IEPs who are identified for this program through the Committee on Pre-School Special Education (CPSE).


Staff:1 certified teacher and 1 certified teaching assistant in each classroom; and in addition, 1 special education resource teacher (caseload of 20) and 1 special education teaching assistant who travel between the classrooms to support the needs of the identified children within the regular classroom setting


Special Class Integrated Setting – (SCIS)

Students:(18)  3 and 4 year old children in a half day or full day program


12 of the children are typically developing neighborhood children and 6 are children with IEPs who are identified for this program through the Committee on Special Education (CPSE).


Staff: 1 certified teacher and 1 certified teaching assistant in each classroom; and in addition, 2 special special education teaching assistants to support the needs of the identified children within the regular classroom setting


Itinerant Educational Services

Students: 3 and 4 year old children enrolled in any of the above pre-school classroom models


Staff: Speech/language pathologist; special education resource teacher; occupational therapist; physical therapist; or school social worker who provide services within their respective disciplines as identified on a child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) by the Committee on Special Education (CPSE).


Pre-School Evaluation Provider

Students:(1) individual pre-school child educational evaluation, at the Pre-K Office (evaluation room), in the home or in a pre-school/childcare setting as determined by the parent/guardian


Staff:(1) school psychologist in conjunction with:  school nurse; school social worker; speech/language pathologist; occupational therapist; and physical therapist provide a comprehensive, multidisciplinary educational evaluation in accordance with SED and Onondaga County regulations.