Initially started through grant funding in 1999, the Basin School District (BSD) Preschool program has provided services to 4-year-olds in East Boise County for over 20 years. When grant funding ran out, the district leadership maintained the preschool through a variety of funding options, including supplemental levies over the last eight years. However, we are constantly seeking options for a more permanent way to fund the program and to help us bring back the parent/family workshop components as well as offer services to three-year olds – as we initially did in the first few years of the program.
Last winter, our grant writing efforts came to fruition when BSD was awarded the Preschool the Idaho Way (PTIW) grant from the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC). As part of the PTIW grant, the school district is helping to establish a model program that other communities can potentially replicate throughout Idaho. This grant has allowed us to choose new curriculum and resources based on the needs of our program, and we were able to provide training to staff, reduce tuition fees, and bring back parent workshops that are designed to help parents understand more about their children’s development.
In December 2019, with Governor Little’s support, Idaho AEYC was awarded the $3.3 million grant, and they asked the PTIW sites to assist in working with communities to both assess early childhood system needs and develop a strategic plan for local areas. Our portion of the AEYC PDG grant has allowed BSD to re-establish our early childhood collaborative committee (school administrators, school early childhood educators, Boise County Community Justice, Boise Basin Library, and local daycare providers) and, as a result, we have been able to reflect more deeply upon the successes of our existing preschool program. Additionally, we have been able to identify programming gaps that exist for families with children ages 0-5 and outline four critical goals.
- Increase community awareness of resources, information and opportunities to access high-quality early childhood services, childcare, and education for children ages 0-5.
- Expand equitable access to high-quality early learning opportunities in the Basin School District.
- Increase community and family awareness of how to support children ages 0-5 in achieving kindergarten readiness.
- Identify and secure ongoing funding opportunities to support early childhood programming.
As part of these grants, we began working on implementing the parent workshops using the Ready! For Kindergarten program which consists of a series of parent workshops that provide families with information on child development as well as resources and activities that they can do at home to help prepare their child for a successful start to kindergarten.
At the end of December 2020, BSD was informed that Idaho AEYC was awarded phase two of the PDG B-5 grant. We were excited to be part of the next phase that would have allowed us to realize our vision of providing families with access to high quality, early childhood learning opportunities. The spending authority for the grant required legislative approval, which was passed through committee (Joint Finance and Appropriations) and was supported by Sen. Risch and Crapo, and Rep. Simpson.
House Bill 226 was developed to appropriate the nearly $6 million in federal funding for the PDG B-5 early childhood education renewal grant that would help facilitate local early learning collaboratives such as the one developed at Basin. These collaboratives would be guided by families, child care providers, educators, policymakers, and local businesses. The collaboratives would work together to implement their local strategic action plans as well as the early childhood education strategic plan for the state. The grant funds would also provide resources to encourage early literacy for Idaho’s children. Unfortunately, House Bill 226 was debated on the house floor and was ultimately defeated.
As a school district, we were excited to have the opportunity and funding to further develop family and community based programming that would help our entire community engage in the process of educating our youngest citizens. The PDG B-5 grant is critical for BSD and the East Boise County community to fulfill the goals outlined in our strategic action plan that was developed in phase one of grant. However, we are committed to seeking opportunities that will help us realize our vision of providing our local children and families with access to high quality, early childhood learning opportunities that support healthy development and school readiness.