110 More Preschool Spots for Children Most in Need in Southeast Washington


By Erin Tomlinson
Early Learning Coordinator
Southeast Early Learning Regional Coalition

With funding from the state Department of Early Learning, 110 new full-day preschool spots are being offered in Finley, North Franklin, Columbia, and Pasco school districts this fall.
It’s part of preschool expansion funding that focuses on full day services and the opportunity to continue to expand preschool into multiple learning environments that are dedicated to improving outcomes for children. The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) serves 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income families, or with developmental or environmental risk factors that could interfere with school success. ECEAP includes early learning preschool, family support and parent involvement, and child health coordination and nutrition.
The funds were awarded to Educational Service District 123 in southeast Washington; the ESD has been committed to growing its Early Learning Department because it is paramount that all children have access to high quality child development services that provide a safe and engaging learning environment and prepare them for kindergarten.
The ESD 123 program includes a comprehensive pre-kindergarten effort that integrates education, family support, and health services in an effort to foster the development of the whole child and enhance opportunities for success in school and life, while recognizing the importance of parent involvement and their role as their child’s first and most important teacher.
“We believe that exceptional child development services should have a sense of purpose, organization and excitement,” said Jennifer Kelly, ESD 123 Early Learning Coordinator. “To produce the best results for children, our philosophy encompasses an early learning environment that offers high-quality experiences in both classroom practices and teacher-child relationships.”
Each of the districts implementing new ECEAP programs already offers full-day kindergarten classes and have been working closely with the ESD early learning staff to utilize the state’s kindergarten assessment, Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS).
In Columbia School District, where more than 60 percent of the elementary students qualify for free or reduced lunch prices and there is a growing population of students served through migrant/bilingual programs, administrators and teachers often look for opportunities to better serve children in the early childhood years. Lou Gates, the district’s superintendent, and Ian Yale, the principal of the district’s elementary school, said they recognized that an ECEAP program would further enhance their ability to impact students early on in their education. They noted how their district, along with Finley, North Franklin and Pasco have a long history of working together and with the service district. They see this ECEAP expansion as a way to work collaboratively to help students in all their communities.
For more information, contact Jenny Kelly at (509) 544-5755 or jakelly@esd123.org.