Preschool the Idaho Way (copy)

A group of preschool students play with dinosaurs and wooden planks at the Downtown Boise YMCA, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.

A volunteer-run program is seeking $116,000 to enhance and expand preschool education opportunities in Kuna.

The program, called Get Ready to Learn, Kuna!, offers preschool education training and materials to parents, teachers and day care providers. The program for over three years has assessed and improved the reading abilities and social readiness of preschool-age children.

Now, with this funding, the hope is to make preschool education accessible to more children in Kuna.

Kuna has a variety of programs for preschoolers, primarily through the library and local preschools and day cares. Preschools and day cares in Kuna vary in enrollment fees and typically have a limited number of spots.

Get Ready to Learn, Kuna! received a $10,000 planning grant earlier this year from the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children to figure out what improved preschool learning opportunities the program could offer.

That $10,000 went toward hiring an administrator to help conduct surveys and hold roundtable events to gather input from parents, preschools, day cares and school district teachers.

“We reached out to get some information on, ‘What do you need (and) why,’” said Ginny Greger, a volunteer with Get Ready to Learn, Kuna!. “‘What are the barriers? … (Are) there not enough preschools? Why can’t you go?’”

Get Ready to Learn, Kuna! volunteers said they found the community wanted and needed more certified preschool education opportunities for children who didn’t financially qualify for Head Start, a federal program that provides education and care for preschool-age children in most communities based on financial need.

If Get Ready to Learn, Kuna! is approved for more grant funding, it will use the money to help compensate more preschool teachers and purchase furniture and curriculum.

This would be done in the existing preschools and day cares in Kuna; it is not a school district program in Kuna schools. Volunteers will likely hear if they received the grant funding near the end of December.

“I think what we found strong from the community is that we want to use our community for community resources and bring everybody’s practices up,” said Ludee Vermaas, special education director for the school district and a volunteer with Get Ready to Learn, Kuna!. “We’re all going the same direction, and there’s different populations. So we’re tapping into as many different populations as we can.”

HOW THE GRANT WORKS

Grant funding is accessible through the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children, a “professional membership organization” with a mission to “advance Idaho’s early learning profession and advocate for children, families and those who work on behalf of young children.” The Idaho association is under a national umbrella.

Get Ready to Learn, Kuna! would need to provide matching funds for the grant. St. Luke’s Health System, CapEd Credit Union, Kids Independent Day School and others offered a total of $58,000, including in-kind donations, allowing Get Ready to Learn, Kuna! to apply for a $58,000 grant.

If approved, a total of $116,000 would go toward preschool education in Kuna. The plan would be to make 16 classroom spots available for qualifying children to receive preschool education from certified teachers at Kids Independent Day School, whose donation is classroom space for 2.5 hours a day five days a week.

Get Ready to Learn, Kuna! will ensure the teachers are certified, compensated and have furniture and curriculum materials.

The plan is to offer these spots to children who don’t financially qualify for Head Start and are unable to attend current preschool offerings in Kuna.

If Get Ready to Learn, Kuna! is not approved for the grant, it will use at least some of the in-kind donations to offer preschool education materials to parents, such as through its book bags initiative. The program will also continue to offer professional development training to preschool teachers in the community.

The hope, said Vermaas, is to connect with anyone involved or interested in developing early education for preschool-age children. Volunteer and donation opportunities are available. For more information visit Get Ready to Learn, Kuna! on Facebook.

“We’ll do what we can to improve community awareness,” Vermaas said.

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