Published on
May 12th 2022

Preschool options in the Triangle area

Preschool, Daycare (home or corporate), or pre-kindergarten, is where three to five-year-old children take their initial steps toward formal education. Preschools give your children a head start in social interaction, emotional skills and improve the overall cognitive functions of the child. Children will be ready to follow instruction from their teachers and interact well with their peers, which enhances their learning experience. Based on extensive research done on the benefits of preschool, the counties in the Triangle offer different options for preschool.
ChaiBuzz Opinion:
Most of county sponsored Pre-K programs are free or subsidized by the counties. When compared to corporate daycares that cost a fortune, opting for county Pre-K programs could be very beneficial if your kids are eligible.

I. Wake Pre-K Programs

The Wake Pre-K application allows consideration for free, safe, and fun Pre-K program options.
  1. NC Pre-Kindergarten (NC Pre-K) - prioritized for families with low incomes
  2. Telamon Head Start - prioritized for families with low incomes
  3. WCPSS Title I

WCPSS Title I Pre-K Programs

The Title I Pre-Kindergarten Program is designed to provide a child-centered, developmentally appropriate experience for four-year-old children in need of academic support. The program stresses an environment that motivates learning through exploration and discovery. The goal of the program is to prepare children to enter kindergarten ready to learn and succeed. Screenings for student participation are offered each spring and students qualify based on academic need.
WCPSS Title I preschool classrooms are located in the district’s elementary schools and follow the same hours of the elementary school day.
You have until June 15, 2022 to apply for Title I Pre-K services for the 2022-23 school year.
You may submit an application and required documents online or mail it to this address:
Wake County Smart Start - Application Center
4901 Waters Edge Drive,
Suite 101Raleigh, NC 27606

Is My Child Eligible?

In order to apply to Wake Pre-K, your child must be:
  • 4 years old on or before August 31
  • A resident of Wake County
  • Completed Wake Pre-K application
  • Students qualify for the program based on academic need, so children must participate in a brief development screening to determine eligibility. Once your completed application is received, you will be notified of your child’s screening appointment.
NC Pre-K and Head Start are prioritized for families with low incomes and other related eligibility requirements listed below. Title I is based on academic need, not income.
When your application is processed, your child will be considered for the program that best matches your family based on this criteria.
Other factors that may be used to determine if your child is eligible include:
  • Living in household with low income – the criteria for NC Pre-K as a guide).
  • Low income means a child is from a family whose gross income is at or below 75% of the State Median Income level. These figures are effective as of January 1, 2019 and are subject to change.
  • Concerns from a doctor about health or learning issues.
  • Having an IEP (Individualized Education Program).
  • Having a parent who is an active duty member of the armed forces.
  • Speaking a language other than English at home.

Wake ThreeSchool

Wake ThreeSchool is a new early learning program for Wake County three-year-olds that will open its classrooms in the fall of 2022.
This new program will provide early education to young children in a play-based, dynamic way like the nationally recognized NC Pre-K program. Based on the research, at age three, a child’s brain is building connections rapidly in a way that is unique to this time of life.
In the fall of 2022, Wake ThreeSchool will open a limited number of classrooms, serving up to 100 children. To be considered for Wake ThreeSchool for the 2022-23 school year, your child must be 3 years old on or before August 31, 2022.
Wake ThreeSchool is prioritized for families with low incomes (below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level) and the following priority groups:
  • Children with documented health or learning issues
  • Children with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)
  • Children that speak a language other than English at home
  • Children with parents/guardians who are active-duty members of the armed forces

II. Durham PreK

The Durham PreK Partners are excited to announce the Durham PreK Application is now open! All children who will turn 4 years old by August 31, 2022 and who live in Durham County are eligible! Click below to access the application! NOW OPEN: 2022-23 Durham PreK Application


Durham PreK is Durham's local investment in high quality early childhood experiences. Durham PreK enhances existing pre-K seats and expands eligibility to all families in Durham County.
In order to apply for the 2022-2023 school year, your child must:
  • Live in Durham County
  • Turn 4 years old on or before August 31, 2022

Which pre-K sites are included?

When you complete a Durham PreK application, you are applying for a pre-K seat in the following types of pre-K classrooms in Durham County:
  • Durham Public Schools (DPS)
  • Durham Head Start (DHS)
  • Community-based Licensed Child Care Programs
These pre-K seats are supported through local, state and federal funding of DPS, DHS, NC Pre-K, and Durham PreK.

Helpful Tips:

  • Virtual application appointments will be available for families.
  • Our application counselor team is bilingual in English and Spanish, but we have interpretation services for many other languages. Interpretation services are available for phone calls to the PreK Information Desk and in virtual application appointments.
  • Download the Application Documentation Checklist use as a checklist to keep track of your application's required documentation! You can download and fill it out electronically as a PDF, screenshot it to save as a photo on your phone, or print it out to use. We hope this is a helpful tool as you gather your needed documents to submit your child's Durham PreK application.
  • We are also hosting TWO in-person application events on May 14th and June 4th.May 14th: 9 am - 12 pm in the parking lot of the Jim and Carolyn Hunt Child Care Resource Center at 1201 S. Briggs Ave.June 4th: 10 am - 1 pm at Leathers Meachem Head Start, 908 Liberty St. Durham, NC 27701.

III. Orange County Schools Pre-Kindergarten Services

Application is now open for 2022-23 year. Apply Here if you are in Orange County and are considering free Pre-K services.



  1. Wake Smart Start
  2. Durham PreK
  3. Orange County First
  4. The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects
  5. Research Snapshot: Pre-K Benefits: 2018 Update