FARMINGTON, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Farmington School District is taking steps to add a pre-kindergarten program for its community.

Having enough space for a new group of kids has been holding the Farmington School District back for a while from adding preschool classes, so the first step was to add space to its elementary schools and junior high, according to Assistant Superintendent Stephanie Pinkerton. She says those additions are almost complete.

Next, the district will apply for its pre-K license, which Pinkerton said takes around 30 days to get approved.

Pinkerton said they’re in the planning process for next school year. As of now, only four-year-olds will be able to be enrolled in the program for its first year. The district hopes to open two or three preschool classes, and expects them to be full right from the start.

“We see it as a need in our school district and across our community. We think it will be a great opportunity in order to really reach those students pre-kindergarten,” said Pinkerton.

Olivia Gardner is the director of education policy for the nonprofit, Arkansas Advocates for Children. She said the demand of parents looking for a quality preschool is not being met in Northwest Arkansas and lags behind other parts of the state.

“I definitely am excited and thrilled to hear about the pre-K program being created in Northwest Arkansas. There’s a huge need for it in this corner of the state,” said Gardner.

Pinkerton said the district wants preschool to be affordable for Farmington parents, so they’re looking at a sliding scale program fee. She said this means the fee will be based on the parents’ income, so some parents may not have to pay a fee, while others will be charged for their kids’ seats in the class.

Pinkerton said the district has been receiving positive feedback from parents who are looking for a preschool for their kids. She believes it’ll make a difference in preparing kids for the future.

“It’s really those very important foundational reading skills that they offer in preschools, and that is, again, our goal to be able to do that. So, we definitely see a difference between students that do attend a pre-K program versus those that don’t,” said Pinkerton.

Gardner said when kids don’t attend pre-k, they tend to have lower reading levels and are more likely to fall behind their classmates who were more prepared for formal schooling.

Sign-up information for Farmington’s preschool program will be available this spring or summer after the district has more of its plans in place.