Citing plans to focus preschool opportunities on students of limited means, the St. Paul school district said this week it will discontinue a preschool program at an elementary school where students face relatively fewer challenges.

That means that the 2013-14 school year will be the final year for preschool programming at Randolph Heights Elementary in the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood.

In a letter to the school community, Sharon Freeman, assistant superintendent of elementary schools, wrote Monday that the district's emphasis on children who need special-education services, who are just beginning to learn English and whose families are low-income makes it likely that "very few" students from the area would qualify for a Randolph Heights preschool program if it were to continue.

"Discontinuing a popular pre-kindergarten program is not something we take lightly, and we are sorry for any extra challenges this may cause your family," Freeman added. "We will be working with individual families to help with this transition -- identifying other pre-K resources when possible."

A Q&A provided with the letter identified eight schools in the area at which Randolph Heights families "who qualify" still will have an opportunity to apply.

In September, the district expanded preschool opportunities across the city, providing slots for 1,380 students, up from 1,094 in 2012-13, a 26-percent increase.

But that still left a waiting list of 730 children at the time.

According to 2012-13 student data, 23 percent of the students at Randolph Heights qualified for free or reduced-price lunch, compared with 73 percent district-wide. Three percent of its students were English language learners, compared with 30 percent across the city.

An informational meeting about the move will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25, at Randolph Heights, 348 Hamline Av. S.