Earlier this week, the City of Seattle announced that applications for the 2021-2022 Seattle Preschool Program (SPP) are now open. In addition, the program has partnered with three new agencies and will open 14 new classrooms in the fall. The new additions bring the total number of SPP classrooms to 129 with capacity to serve up to 2,054 preschoolers.
The City also announced that it would extend preschool programming for the current school year through summer months to help mitigate learning loss during COVID-19 and its disproportionate impact on children of color. Providers with contracts for the 2020-2021 school year will have the opportunity to offer two additional months of preschool programming to better prepare children for kindergarten. The Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL), which oversees the Seattle Preschool Program, expects that around 74 classrooms will offer summer preschool services for approximately 1000 children, with the majority of programs offering in-person preschool.
“Our children’s access to quality early learning is now more important than ever. In a year when we are concerned students may be falling behind, and existing academic disparities widening, we are expanding access to all the opportunity that quality preschool gives to a child,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. “Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Seattle’s childcares and preschools have provided safe and rich learning experiences, and I encourage all families with 3- and 4-year-old children to apply, and set your youngest learners up for success in school years to come.”
Significant modifications were made to SPP during the 2020-2021 school year in response to COVID-19, including multiple programming options (in-person, remote, and hybrid) and tuition waivers and reductions. While full details about programming for the 2021-2022 school year aren’t yet available, providers are preparing to receive more children in person. DEEL is also supporting City vaccination efforts with a focus on preschool teachers and childcare workers, who are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We are excited at the opportunity for more of our City’s youngest learners to gain access to a high-quality preschool environment this year, especially on the heels of the greatest interruption to learning we have seen in our lifetime,” said DEEL Director Dwane Chappelle. “We know that the learning foundations built at this age have significant impacts on future academic success, and we are incredibly grateful for all our SPP providers who have been on the frontlines serving children since the pandemic hit, adapting their programs so the negative impact on our children is minimized.”
“In West African culture, success is not limited to having a good job and food on the table but includes how one helps their family, friends, and neighbors to attain the same educational and professional momentum they have achieved,” said Issa Ndiaye, founder and executive director at West African Community Council, whose One Family Learning Center in Rainier Valley offers dual-language programming and is one of this year’s SPP expansion sites. “West African Community Council is proud to serve our community and partner with the Seattle Preschool Program to provide important early education opportunities, especially for our friends and neighbors in the Black/African American community.”
Under expansion plans from the Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise Levy, the Seattle Preschool Program is on track to serve more than 2,500 children by 2026. SPP provides Seattle children who are three- or four-years-old with access to evidence-based, culturally responsive, and equitable preschool services that improve readiness for school and support subsequent academic achievement while eliminating race-based disproportionalities in kindergarten readiness.
New expansion sites for the 2021-2022 school year include: Hilltop Children’s Center, Community School of West Seattle, West African Community Council – One Family Learning Center, Tiny Tots Early Learning Collaborative, Associated Recreation Council (ARC) at Alki, Educare Early Learning Center, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) @ Northgate Elementary School – Head Start, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) @ Cascadia Elementary School – Head Start, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) @ Magnolia Elementary School, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) @ MLK, and Seattle Public Schools (SPS) @ Wing Luke Elementary.