Creating a runway for success for Wake County’s youngest children.

Wake County Smart Start


Wake County Smart Start
Wake ThreeSchool
4901 Waters Edge Drive
Suite 101
Raleigh, NC 27606


(919) 851-9550

Wake ThreeSchool

Wake ThreeSchool is a new early learning program for three-year-olds that will open 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. Research shows that when three-year-olds receive support for learning early, they learn better, gain stronger skills, and are better prepared for success in Pre-K and Kindergarten ahead. This is because at age three, a child’s brain is building connections rapidly in a way that is unique to this time of life. This “framework” is what all future learning is built upon.

In the first year of the program (July 1, 2021 – June 30th, 2022) Wake ThreeSchool will hire initial staff, assess community need, review research on best practices, and gather community input as we build this unique program. The program will open a limited number of classrooms in the fall of 2022, serving up to 100 children.

Why Wake ThreeSchool is needed

Wake ThreeSchool will expand publicly funded services for three-year-olds – an identified need. Currently low-wealth families who need help to access early learning programs can seek Child Care Subsidy assistance. However, Child Care Subsidy does not support all the families with three-year-olds who need it, and the early learning programs families are linked to are not part of an integrated system of Pre-K preparation for Kindergarten. Wake ThreeSchool will use an intensive model, specific curriculum, and shared measures for success. The program bridges the gap in publicly funded services for children that have aged out of the State’s infant-toddler services and not yet eligible or NC Pre-K and in turn improves the outcomes for children’s learning.

Are you an early childhood program that currently serves three-year-olds? You may have interest in this specialized page that offers information relevant to professionals and allows for your input as the program is developed.

  • Frequently Asked Questions

    How old does my child need to be to participate?

    Children must be age three by August 31st to be eligible to apply.

    When will applications be available?

    While the date is not firm yet, we anticipate applications being available January of 2022.

    Is there a cost for attendance?

    ThreeSchool is free to income eligible families, representing $10,000 in tuition support.

    How do I know if my family is income eligible?

    The ThreeSchool team will be developing this information in the coming months. Be sure to check this page and social media for updates.


If you have specific questions about Wake ThreeSchool, please contact Carol Orji, Wake ThreeSchool Manager, at corji@wakesmartstart.org.


Wake ThreeSchool is funded by Wake County Government and managed by Wake County Smart Start.

Related Programs

Building Family Support
Early Literacy Initiatives

Early Literacy Initiatives will promote parent engagement and parenting practices in Wake County by providing activities, education, and resource materials through two literacy programs: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Reach Out and Read.


Children in Wake County, ages birth to five, who are experiencing homelessness will receive assessment, assistance, and support services through REACH (Resilience, Empowerment, Access for Children Experiencing Homelessness), a program of Passage Home.

Program for Early Parent Support

Participants in both Spanish- and English-speaking communities are provided with emotional support, an inclusive and safe community, and empowerment to grow as they experience challenges with others who understand their perspective. These programs are completely free of cost and provide participants with crucial resources including diapers, grocery gift cards and books (in participants’ home language). TAPS is currently offering these programs to families in Wake County with babies up to 18 months of age.

Improving Early Childhood Education Access for Latinx Families

Child Care Referral Central (CCRC), a service of Child Care Services Association (CCSA), provides “one-stop shopping” for Wake County Latinx families, who have children birth to 5, with identifying, selecting, and accessing high quality early care and education opportunities. CCRC Specialists provide FREE services, which include counseling on child care options, referrals to programs, assistance checking vacancies, accompanied site-visits, support navigating financial assistance, and Spanish interpretation and translation assistance.


Wonderschool supports family child care home providers by providing dedicated technology, training, ongoing mentorship, and community to operate and grow.

System Improvement and Public Engagement

System Improvement and Public Engagement staff work with community stakeholders to strengthen and support the early childhood system of care and education.

Shape NC

Shape NC: Healthy Starts for Young Children promotes healthy eating and active learning through play for children from birth to age 5 by assisting communities in healthy endeavors.

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library mails a free high quality, age-appropriate book to children in Wake County every month from birth to age 5 to encourage a love of reading and readiness for kindergarten.

Wake Connections

Wake Connections is a coordinated intake and referral system that connects families with high quality home-based programs.

Child Care Subsidy Program

The Wake County Child Care Subsidy Program provides financial assistance to parents for their child care needs for families based on an assessment of need, income and family size.

NC Pre-Kindergarten

NC Pre-K provides children with a high-quality classroom program to help four-year olds get ready for Kindergarten. Children attend Pre-K for 6.5 hours each day, Monday through Friday.

School Readiness Services for Hispanic Children

School Readiness Services for Hispanic Children & Families serves Hispanic families with young children in Wake County. It is a multifaceted program that builds early literacy skills, and provides screenings, information and referrals.

Nurse-Family Partnership

Nurse-Family Partnership is a free, voluntary program that partners first-time moms with nurse home visitors.

Parents as Teachers

Parents as Teachers (PAT) services are offered to children from birth to age 5 who need help preparing for success in school.


SecurePath is a comprehensive mental health service for young children in Wake County that is provided at the child’s home or preschool.

Crianza con Cariño

This 15-week family education program blends child-rearing information with social supports to strengthen Spanish-speaking families living in Wake County.

Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY)

HIPPY is a FREE 3-year, home-based, early childhood education program that supports parents while providing solutions that strengthen families.

Farm to Child Care

The Farm to Child Care program supports child care facilities, fostering nutrition plans that include fresh, local produce for snacks and meals throughout growing seasons.

Program Coordination and Evaluation

Program Coordination and Evaluation staff work with community stakeholders to plan, develop, implement, and evaluate funded activities to achieve the goals, objectives, and outcomes identified in the Wake County Smart Start strategic plan.

Improving and Sustaining Quality Child Care

Improving and Sustaining Quality Child Care is a program in the Quality Enhancement Department within Wake County Smart Start.

Child Care Health Consultant Program

The Child Care Health Consultant Program provides on-site health, safety, and nutrition consultation in child care facilities.

Advancing School Readiness

Advancing School Readiness has two components. Directors can apply to participate in the Wake Directors’ Leadership Academy or the Accreditation project.