Boise partners up to launch preschool program

The City of Boise and the Boise School District plan to team up to provide preschool to the Vista neighborhood. It is part of a larger initiative called “Energize Our Neighborhoods” where the city is using data as a road map to consider how community investments should be made.

“When we started to look at the data we saw a distinct disparity between preparedness for kindergarten in the Vista neighborhood — compared to other areas in the city,” said Diana Lachiondo, director of community partnerships for the City of Boise.

Idaho is one of only six states in the country that does not fund preschool. Funding for statewide or pilot preschool and early childhood initiatives have failed in the Legislature after lawmakers argued that early learning should take place in the home and that the state should fix its K-12 education system before broadening its financial scope.

The Vista Early Childhood Project partnership is still in the early stages. The Boise City Council gave tentative approval to the project scope in January, but has asked the mayor’s office to secure support from local organizations.

“The City of Boise will be the guarantor of the funds that are raised and any city dollars that might be invested,” Lachiondo said. “The Boise School District is actually providing the program.”

The city will contribute funding for the program if the council agrees to move forward with the plan.

“I don’t have the final amount what taxpayers could pay, it really just depends,” Lachiondo said.

The United Way of Treasure Valley will be a major partner and has planned to donate $50,000 for family resources.

“United Way can leverage not just the funds, but we can use the power of United Way to help find additional resources so families have access to health support and at-home educational support,” said Nora Carpenter, president of United Way of Treasure Valley. “Anything that will help these kids have everything the need.”

The Boise School District will operate the program at Whitney and Hawthorne elementary schools, serving 60 kids. There will be three-hour sessions, five days a week with 20 kids in each session. Two sessions will be held at Hawthorne and one at Whitney.

“The Vista area is part of the Energize Our Neighborhood and we know there is a need at Hawthorne and Whitney Elementary schools and it was a perfect match,” said Stacey Roth, administrator of student programs at the Boise School District. “We know that pre-k is vitally important for the long-term academic success for our children.”

Kids will be selected to participate from the Vista Neighborhood based on income qualifications. The program cost and funding for the first year will be about $262,000 and an ongoing price of $182,000.

“We will do a community outreach so parents know that this is a great opportunity for their children at both schools and they will have to apply for the program,” Roth said.

On May 5, the council will review what community support and the city’s budget. For more information about the project click here.

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