Planning is underway to open a Bezos Academy preschool for low-income families in Pasco.
The Montessori-inspired preschool will be at 333 W. Court St. in the Sprucewood Recreation Center in east Pasco.
The Housing Authority of the City of Pasco and Franklin County own the 8,263-square-foot building.
The academy plans to open in 2022 after renovating the 79-year-old building, which is currently unoccupied after previously being used by Boys and Girls Clubs of Benton & Franklin Counties. Up to 80 students and up to 14 staff members will use the facility once open, according to planning documents filed with the state.
Construction is expected to begin in January 2022.
Bezos Academy is a nonprofit offering a network of tuition-free preschools offering year-round, full-day programming, five days a week, for children ages 3 to 5 years old from low-income families. Its Montessori approach means students pursue self-led, self-paced multi-sensory activities guided by teachers.
Jeff Bezos, the founder and former CEO of Amazon and the academy’s namesake, has said he benefited from a Montessori education.
The academy will provide students with all necessary supplies and services, including Montessori materials, books, arts and crafts, field trips and meals.
The nonprofit opened its first preschool in the state south of Seattle in Des Moines in fall 2020 and plans to open academies this October in Federal Way, Pacific Beach and two in Tacoma.
The preschool will address an important, unmet need for low-income families in the area, according to the housing authority. The agency, which provides housing and housing assistance to more than 600 families, owns several homes in the neighborhood surrounding the future preschool.
“Even before the pandemic, too many families weren’t able to find an affordable, high-quality preschool for their kids,” said Matt Truman, executive director of the housing authority, in a news release. “With so many programs having closed over the last year, there couldn’t be a better time to bring a program like Bezos Academy into our community.”
State data indicates that about two-thirds of children under age 6 in Pasco don’t have access to preschool or child care. The opportunity to be situated next door to public housing, easily accessible to low-income families, aligns with the Bezos Academy mission, Bezos officials said.
“Anyone who has spent time in a great preschool understands the difference it makes not just for the kids, but also for their families,” said Mike George, president of Bezos Academy. “We’re excited to join the community of preschools helping to nurture a love of learning in the children of Pasco in partnership with their parents and caregivers.”
Families earning up to 400% of the federal poverty limit with children aged 3-4 are eligible to apply. For a family of four, that would be an annual salary of $106,000.
Bezos Academy and the Housing Authority said they will collaborate to ensure local families are alerted when applications are available.
More information and an application to the lottery-based selection process will be posted at bezosacademy.org once the school opening date is set.
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