Drawing in pre-K lottery runs smoothly this year

North Augusta resident Shawn Roberson, who is in the process of moving to Columbia County, got a special welcome to her new community Wednesday.

Her daughter's name was the first one drawn in the 2008-09 River Ridge Elementary School prekindergarten lottery.

"I'm excited. Wonderful school," Ms. Roberson said.

Phyllis Means, the Columbia County school system director of elementary student learning, said the pre-K lotteries, which started Monday and end Wednesday, have been problem-free.

The lottery system came under fire last year after some parents complained about the River Ridge drawing. They said school employees gave themselves an unfair advantage by folding their registration cards that were used in the drawing.

The school system made slight changes to the process this year. Parents still are submitting registration cards in the drawings, but the words "Do Not Fold or Bend" are printed across each card.

Unlike last year, Ms. Means is planning to assist at each of the 14 lotteries. She drew the cards at River Ridge.

Ms. Means collected the cards in a basket as parents completed them before transferring them to the covered box. She said the use of the basket was new this year.

"I'm just going by and picking them up so people don't play with them," she said of the cards.

Columbia County has 16 pre-K classes of 20 pupils each at 14 elementary schools. A child must be 4 years old on or before Sept. 1 to be eligible for next year's program.

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.