Like many new Naperville residents, Elaine Moxon is having a hard time finding a preschool for her two children. "It's frustrating that the places we want don't have any openings," said Moxon, who moved to Naperville from River Forest with her husband, Darran, in mid-June.

"A handful that I liked, there are long waiting lists for."

Moxon has a specific preschool in mind for her children -- Nathaniel, 4 and Alexandra, 3. She wants them to attend a school which is small, has a low student-to-teacher ratio and teaches Christian values.

But she found that many other parents are looking for those qualities as well, and they filled up all the spots in her top schools before she and her husband were even thinking about moving to Naperville.

"I expected that some places would be filled, but I didn't expect to run the risk of not being able to get them in anywhere," she said.

"It would have been really helpful if we had known we were going to be moving to Naperville a year ago."

For parents scrambling to find a preschool at this late hour, the term "waiting list" is all too familiar.

Most preschools began registrations for the fall back in January.

"I'm continuing to get calls almost daily from people who are new to the area," said Caryn Schatz, director of the preschool at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

"It's a tough situation if you relocate after January."

Several directors of local preschool programs suggested parents contact the Naperville Park District because it offers individual special-interest classes as well as a preschool program.

But according to Michelle Brucher, the Park District's program manager for early childhood programs, the preschool is already full, and registration for individual classes ended Aug. 12. She said she is calling people from the preschool waiting lists because of unexpected openings, but the lists are still too long, making it difficult for those at the bottom.

So what is a frustrated parent to do?

For starters, a tool that may come in handy when frantically searching for a Concord MA Preschool is "A Guide to Preschools," an annual publication produced by the Parent and Children Education Society, a nonprofit group in Naperville which promotes educated parenting for mothers of young children.

The 1999 guide gives specifics on 43 preschools in Naperville, Aurora Bolingbrook and surrounding areas.

The booklet includes such details as each preschool's philosophy, the director's background and typical class sizes.

Tara Springer, one of the group's two regional coordinators, said there are several options for parents who can't find an open preschool for their children.

If the child is 3 years old, parents may choose to wait a year before enrolling him or her in a preschool, she said.

She also suggested Mom's Day Out programs, usually operated two days a week at local churches, which give children a chance to interact with other children under a teacher's supervision before they start kindergarten.

Plus, there are still preschool directors out there who have many openings in all age groups.

Teri Chadd, the new owner of Happy Time in Naperville, said she hasn't had much time yet to get her name known in the area, so she still has plenty of room.

"I'm getting calls back from people on waiting lists saying they're not sure they're going to get in," she said.

Springer said parents who move to the area months after the deadline must ultimately accept that they may have to be more flexible with the kind of preschool they want for their child.

"If you miss that deadline, your choices are going to be limited," she said.

"People get bent out of shape about this stuff, and they have to remember it's just preschool."


REFERENCE MATERIAL What: "A Guide to Weston Preschool." Publisher: Parent and Children Education Society. Where: Available at Borders Books and Music, 336 S. Route 59, and Family Christian Bookstore, 936 Route 59, Suite 116 (near Ogden Avenue). Cost: $5.


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