Meyer grant moves region toward high-quality preschool


By Sue Cody

Feb. 28, 2019

Plans to provide high-quality preschool for all area children are moving forward with a $100,000 one-year grant from Meyer Memorial Trust.

Northwest Regional Education Service District will use the grant to engage local partners to build a roadmap for preschool expansion in Clatsop, Tillamook and Columbia counties.

Key goals are to engage community stakeholders and identify and leverage resources available for expansion. The key outcome is to launch a pilot preschool and identify two additional locations for classrooms by the end of 2019.

Northwest Early Learning Hub Director Dorothy Spence is overseeing the Regional Preschool Planning project.

This grant follows a Preschool Feasibility Study, that identified many needs in the region.

Meyer Preschool Grant Image

High-quality preschool makes a difference

High-quality preschools include a qualified teacher, a strong curriculum, and encompass social-emotional, physical and academic development.

“There’s strong evidence that says when somebody has high-quality preschool, they do well in third grade, which is the No. 1 predictor of high school graduation,” says Dan Gaffney, retired Seaside school principal.

Research shows that also leads to greater success in later life, and higher earning power.

“Those seeking to reduce deficits and strengthen the economy should make significant investments in early childhood education,” says James J. Heckman, Nobel Prize winning economist.

Recent research suggests the return on early childhood education investment is 13 percent per year.

Building a roadmap

The roadmap for preschool expansion in Northwest Oregon includes identifying community goals and objectives, funding sources and data points to measure the impact of a high-quality preschool.

There will be at least eight community meetings to engage stakeholders, Spence says. Two educator events are planned to focus on dual-language teaching and inclusive classrooms.

Conversations will include recruiting Spanish-speaking and low-income preschoolers and addressing transportation issues.

Current preschools and day care providers will be asked if they are interested in expanding.

As a result of receiving the grant, Amy Lovelace has been hired as project leader to reach out to businesses, parents, educators, preschool providers, the U.S. Coast Guard and others to assess needs and possible funding sources.

Funding could come from employers, philanthropic organizations, individuals, government and businesses.

Early Learning consultant Heidi McGowan has contracted with the ESD to support community engagement and regional preschool plan development.

The Hub is focusing on assessing the needs of families and the community, such as full-day or half-day sessions; hours of operation; teachers’ needs; vacation time, education opportunities and more.

Dan Gaffney, who led the Preschool Feasibility Study, says organizing resources and planning ahead means the region will be “shovel-ready,” when funding becomes available from the Legislature or from other sources.