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Westside Pre-K registration Thursday

If you drive past Westside Elementary Thursday morning and see a line of parents snaking out the door and around the building, don’t worry, there’s no problem. It’s just the beginning of what may become an annual Spring ritual in Demopolis: the wait for registration into Westside’s Fabulous Fours Pre-Kindergarten program.

Thursday’s registration process marks the beginning of the program’s second year of existence. According to Fabulous Fours teacher Amy Hasty, the demand for the program shown during last year’s registration caught even the program’s officials off guard.

“We were shocked last year,” Hasty said. “Some parents were there waiting at 6:30 in the morning. People had brought lawn chairs to sit in while they waited.”

It’s a scene that seems likely to be repeated this year. The program has places available for only 22 children, all of whom will be registered by lunchtime Thursday.

“It’s first-come-first-serve,” said Hasty. “Whoever is first in line will be registered. That’s just how it goes.”

Hasty said that the doors to Westside would be opened between 7 and 7:30 Thursday morning, but that registration would not officially begin until 8, when the school’s library (the site of registration) opens.

After the available spots are filled, the program will put together a waiting list for those interested in the program. Hasty said last year’s list eventually reached 25 names.

If lawn chairs, early bird parents, and a lengthy line do reappear, it will be due to the program’s success this past year and the wealth of benefits it offers.

“I personally think Fabulous Fours makes a huge impact on the students,” Hasty said. “It teaches valuable pre-reading skills, it gets a child used to the routine of a school day, and teaches social skills they will need in kindergarten. We just help prepare them to be better learners later on.”

Those better learners are created by a program that offers a number of benefits to those involved.

“It offers an age-appropriate core reading program, certified teachers, two educational assistants, a new playground…” Hasty says. “All the materials we use, in fact, are new for the program. The students have access to the Westside library, and the computer lab. It’s the sort of resources they just won’t have in a 4-year-olds day care.”

The result is a program that Hasty says has met and surpassed expectations for its students.

“Everybody’s pleased. Our students have shown great progress,” she says. “I’m responsible for our reports and assessments, and we’ve seen tremendous growth within the program.”

Not surprisingly, that kind of opportunity doesn’t come free. Tuition for Fabulous Fours will cost parents $200 a month, with a $25 deposit due Thursday upon registration. In addition to the $25, parents will need to bring the child’s certified birth certificate, original social security card, and up-to-date “blue card” with immunization information.

Hasty firmly believes that enrolling a child in Fabulous Fours is well worth the financial cost, as well as the potential wait.

“We’re convenient. If parents have a child already enrolled at Westside, they can bring them both at once. If it’s a teacher, they can bring their child with them to work. There are draws, too, like social skills, that go beyond academics,” she said. “We’re really just doing our best to get them ready for kindergarten.”