How to apply for CPS preschools

Written by: Didi Lewis

If you’re thinking about CPS for preschool next fall, the time to look into those programs is…now! There are different options available, with programs housed in select public elementary schools across the city. Most have already begun providing tours and scheduling open houses. It’s always best to call each school you are interested in to get the details on how to apply and/or get on their waitlist; some programs have not yet determined the number of seats that will be open for next fall. 

A couple of important notes regarding CPS preschool programs: Residing within the neighborhood boundaries of an elementary school that offers a preschool program does not guarantee admission into that program; an application is required from all entering students; and acceptance into a CPS preschool program that is not your neighborhood school does not guarantee admission into the school’s K-8 program (except for the magnet programs described below). 

Here’s a quick rundown of the programs and application requirements for CPS preschool programs:

Tuition-Based Preschool (TBP): Full-day programs that provide childcare in addition to preschool (10-hour day; hours may vary by school). Housed in select elementary schools, children must be age 3 or 4 and potty-trained by September 1. Applications are processed directly through each school; applicants are typically added to a waitlist until the number of open spots is determined. Priority for open seats goes to returning students and their siblings. Tuition for 2018-2019 is set at $14,621, which includes a $700 non-refundable deposit required to hold your child’s spot in the class, if offered. Visit the CPS Early Childhood page for a list of school locations and to print an application.  

Ready to Learn! Preschool (RTL): Typically half-day programs (2.5-3 hours) housed in select elementary schools, with tuition determined by a sliding scale. Children must be age 3 or 4 and potty-trained by September 1. The application process is completely online, with a limited number of application support sites. Visit for application information and updates; the application period will begin in spring 2018.

Magnet Preschool Programs: CPS offers Montessori preschool programs at three magnet elementary schools: Drummond, Mayer and Suder—children must be age 3 or 4 and potty trained by September 1. CPS also offers one language-immersion preschool program at Inter-American—children must be age 4 by September 1. Seats in the Montessori programs are distributed via applicant lottery, with a smaller applicant pool for applicants who are siblings of current students and/or who reside within 1.5 miles of the school. Inter-American Magnet School also requires applicants to indicate their dominant language as part of application process, and a language screening is required after an applicant is admitted.

A standard application is required for all magnet programs; the application period for 2018-2019 is October 10, 2017 at 9am through December 22, 2017 at midnight. Go to to apply. Acceptance into a magnet preschool program does guarantee admission into the school’s K-8 program, making spots in these programs highly competitive.

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Posted on October 13, 2014 at 10:44 AM