City expands Seattle Preschool Program, hopes to enroll 1,000 this fall
Seattle is expanding its universal preschool pilot program, with plans to serve more than 1,000 3- and 4-year old students, up from the current 600 enrolled in a program approved by voters in 2014.
The city will add 20 new classrooms for the 2017-18 school year, bringing the total to 53. The new programs are expected to grow the geography diversity of the Seattle Preschool Program (SPP). Seven of the new classrooms will be in North Seattle.
Mayor Ed Murray has described the preschool program as the most important initiative he will ever undertake in office.
"The goal is universal pre-K, so no matter your economic status or circumstance, children have access to high-quality early education," Murray said in announcing the expansion.
The program is run, in cooperation with but independent of the Seattle School District, by the city's Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL).
"We know from years of experience and countless studies that not all children enter kindergarten prepared to succeed in school," said Dwane Chappelle, the principal who transformed Rainier Beach High School and who now directs the DEEL.
"High-quality affordable pre-school is our best weapon against the achievement tap," Chappelle added.
Seattle City Councilwoman Deborah Juarez, who represents District 5 , said the program will serve 150 children in her far-north Seattle neighborhood. "The number of city-run pre-K classrooms will quadruple next year (in the district)," Juarez said.
The city and Seattle School District will partner to provide additional "special education inclusion services" within the Seattle Preschool Program classrooms. The partnership will give more children access to full-day preschool classes. All SPP classrooms afford specialized services to kids with identified disabilities, regardless of which site they attend.
Applications for the 2017-18 Seattle Preschool Program, which opened Wednesday, are available online.
Parents are also able to apply by calling 206-386-1050.
"Continuing the growth of the Seattle Preschool Program will allow us to serve more than 1,000 students all over Seattle and create a more equitable city, as the majority are students of color," said Murray.