ARLINGTON – Arlington educators want to give kids an early jump on learning that makes them kindergarten ready.
Arlington Public Schools offers the Early Childhood Education Assistance Program free preschool program for low-income families, in partnership with the state and Snohomish County.
The “whole child” preschool program is tailored to introduce 3- and 4-year-old children to literacy, math, science and art skills in fun ways, while also teaching them social, communication and behavioral development that will help ease them into kindergarten, said Carrie Saunders, manager of ECEAP and APPLE, or Arlington Partners for Pre-Kindergarten Learning Enhancement.
Saunders said a typical class day could see up to 20 kids working together to build a tower with blocks, time with toys and games, a Play-Doh baking exercise, story time with Sno-Isle Libraries, alphabet practice with words on their whiteboards, a science game to see what will sink or float in water, and some days a field trip to a museum or pumpkin farm, as examples.
Saunders said many children are either enrolled in a preschool program, learning valuable lessons at home, or no preschool education.
“We try to reach out to kids and families that need preschool the most,” Saunders said, such as low-income, homeless and foster care children.
She said ECEAP staff are respectful of each family’s culture and language, all the more important for a diverse classroom that has children who are dual-language learners. Those differences are worked into classroom exercises.
Staff also focuses on family strengths, Saunders said. “That’s why engaging with the families is so important.”
The ECEAP program offers parent education, for example, specialty parenting classes, first aid, CPR and even how to make tamales.
Transportation takes teamwork. School buses at Eagle Creek Elementary drop the children at ECEAP classes in the morning, and parents pick them up at the end of class; in the afternoon sessions, parent drop them off, and school buses take them home.
ECEAP is targeted toward helping homeless families and families that fall within the 110 percent federal poverty level. A proposed bill in the state Legislature would increase eligibility from 110 percent to 135 percent, which would open up the program to more families.
A family of four is currently eligible that has an annual income of $27,060 a year. At the 135 percent level, four-member families would be eligible if they have a yearly income of $33,210. A state school administrators group is lobbying to push the eligibility cap to 180 percent.
Saunders said APPLE/ECEAP staff are committed “not just to changing the children’s lives, but their families, too, for years to come.”
Arlington is one of 21 ECEAP locations around the county. Enrollment is ongoing and year-round. For details, call Saunders at 360-618-6434 for visit the website at apple.asd.wednet.edu.