Little learners will soon fill two classrooms set to open later this month in the Miller Annex as part of the Seattle Preschool Program.
“This is truly the standard for excellent, high-quality preschool education spaces,” said Monica Liang-Aguirre, director of early learning for Seattle’s Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL).
The City of Seattle identified the Miller Annex at the Miller Community Center as an underutilized property that could be renovated for preschool space back in 2015, Liang-Aguirre said. That work was completed in coordination with Seattle Parks and Recreation.
SPR project manager Kelly Gould said three of the four classrooms used to be part of the gym at the Annex, which had been too small to facilitate any real play. The 50-year-old gym floor was preserved during the renovation and large windows added for the classrooms. There is also an outside fenced play area that two classrooms can use at one time.
“It’s almost as if someone had walked in there and waved a magic wand,” said interim SPR superintendent Christopher Williams ahead of community tours of the new preschool on Tuesday, March 6.
Two of the four classrooms will be filled in the next few weeks, starting with 40 preschoolers. Because the preschool is opening in the middle of the school year, students enrolled this spring will remain in the preschool over the summer. The two other classrooms and 40 more slots will open up in September, with fall enrollment starting on March 15. The city is currently taking applications at seattle.gov/applyspp.
The city has an initiative underway to open nine preschools using available space at Seattle community centers, said Cameron Clark, Seattle Preschool Program policy and planning specialist.
The Miller Annex preschool was created using $1.7 million in Seattle Preschool Program Levy funds and $1.3 million from Seattle Parks and Recreation.
Tuition is free for qualifying applicants with income below 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, Clark said, which is roughly about $80,000 a year. Those with incomes higher than that pay based on a sliding scale.
“Right now, the priority is 4 year olds,” Clark said. “You can be a 3 year old, but you have to be under 300 percent.”
DEEL announced its selection of Launch to operate the Miller Annex Preschool program back in July 2017.
Launch — formerly the Community Day School Association — was formed in 1977, and it provides before- and after-school, preschool and summer school programs at 10 locations in Seattle, including Madrona, Leschi Elementary, Beacon Hill International School and Montlake Elementary.
“We are serving children who might not otherwise attend preschool because their families can’t afford it,” said Launch executive director Brianna Jackson.
Jackson said the strong real estate market and state licensing requirements make it difficult for organizations like Launch to find high-quality, affordable preschool space, and she’s excited to be a part of the expansion of the Seattle Preschool Program.
Sharon Pearce, lead teacher at the Miller Annex Preschool, said Launch uses the HighScope curriculum, which is play-based and focuses on social and social emotional learning as children prepare for kindergarten.
“We like to have a partnership between our teachers, and between our teachers and their students,” Pearce said, which allows children to be engaged in the way they learn.
Jackson said the state needs to make a final inspection of the facility, and then the preschool should be able to open shortly after that — likely later this month.
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