For its New Year’s resolution, the Jackson County Education Coalition is focusing efforts on increasing participation in On My Way Pre-K and raising money to sustain the program in the future.

Open enrollment in the state-pilot early childhood education initiative for the 2016-17 school year begins Wednesday.

Applications may be picked up at and returned to the Jackson County Learning Center, 323 Dupont Drive in Seymour, or families can visit OnMyWayPreK.org.

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The deadline to enroll is March 25.

The program is currently serving 65 students in its first year, but coalition officials hope that number will grow to at least 100 by this fall. It was estimated that more than 250 children in the county were eligible to participate who were not already enrolled in a preschool program.

On My Way Pre-K provides vouchers to low-income families to send their 4-year-olds to a preschool program in the area. Currently, there are 12 On My Way Pre-K providers in the county that have received a Level 3 Paths to QUALITY rating through the state’s Family and Social Services Administration.

A Level 3 out of the four levels means the program has high-quality curriculum in place that supports early childhood learning and school readiness.

“This is a family choice program, and families that are eligible and selected to participate will have the option to choose the provider that best fits their family’s needs,” said Natasha Langford, On My Way Pre-K program manager for Jackson County.

To qualify, a child must be 4 years old by Aug. 1 but not yet 5. Families must be income eligible, which means they are at or below 127 percent of the federal poverty level, and live within the county.

Jackson was one of five counties selected by the state in 2014 for the pilot program. Other counties participating are Marion, Allen, Lake and Vanderburgh. Those counties are larger than Jackson County, which was the only rural county selected. In those counties, there are more students who qualify and more providers.

To continue On My Way Pre-K, the education coalition is working with community partners to come up with a 10 percent match that allows the community to access state funding.

The Community Foundation of Jackson County has provided $5,000.

“We are currently seeking additional donations,” Langford said.

To get the word out about On My Way Pre K and to give families something fun to do to ring in the new year together, the Jackson County Education Coalition organized a free Noon Year’s Eve event Dec. 31 at The Point in Seymour.

There were snacks, crafts, games and other activities targeting younger children, and at noon, a countdown was conducted to release 500 pink and blue balloons.

Local On My Way Pre-K providers served as volunteers at the event.

Langford said she was thrilled by the more than 250 people who attended and learned more about the importance of early childhood education.

At a glance

On My Way Pre-K providers in Jackson County

Crothersville

Crothersville Elementary Preschool

Miss Crystal’s

Medora

Medora Elementary Preschool

Brownstown

God’s Lil Blessings LLC and Brownstown Christian Church Daycare Ministry and Preschool

Seymour

Terri’s Playhouse, Lord’s Lambs Preschool, Head Start, Above and Beyond Child Care, Zion Lutheran School Pre-K, Laugh and Learn Daycare and Margaret R. Brown Elementary School

At a glance

For questions about applying, the program or providers, contact Natasha Langford at 812-519-2923, ext. 304, or via email at natasha@jceconline.org.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.