Many kids throughout Seattle woke up this morning welcoming their first day of school. And as I watched my daughters fill their backpacks and walk into their kindergarten classroom for the first time, I couldn’t help but reflect on this milestone in their lives and how they will be shaped by the Seattle Public School system. Although there are many pressing and timely decisions facing the Council right now (which will undoubtedly be topics of blog posts to come), I want to briefly shift that focus to commemorate the start of the school year for all of the students in this city – from our preschoolers up to our high school seniors.
We have two exciting achievements to celebrate today as students return to school. First, building upon a successful 2015/2016 pilot year that served 280 students in 15 classrooms, Seattle’s Preschool Program (SPP) kicks off its second academic year today serving an impressive 600 kids in 32 schools.
In order to maintain the high-quality standards of the program and facilitate SPP’s expansion across the city, today’s roll out features a few changes that have taken effect this school year, including:
- Raising the payments to our early learning providers by an average of 21 percent;
- Expediting the curriculum waiver process;
- Updating the student selection process to be more “parent friendly;”
- And allowing providers who serve targeted populations to reserve a select number of spaces in their classroom to enroll on their own.
These changes were made after hearing directly from those who administer and participate in SPP and help us get closer to our ultimate goal of closing the opportunity gap for so many of our kids.
Second, I want to celebrate the great news regarding smaller class sizes. In the last few days, five brand new schools have come online and will welcome their inaugural classes today. Thanks to these critical openings and funding from the Legislature’s 2016 budget process, our kindergarten through third grade students will benefit from the increased attention and guidance smaller class sizes provide.
Lastly, I will work to ensure we maintain our partnerships with Seattle Public Schools and identify new ones to keep accessible childcare a priority for our office. Before and aftercare represents a critical piece of the puzzle that sets students and their families up for success and accessible opportunities make a huge impact on the achievement gap our City works so hard to close.
Here’s to a successful school year for all of Seattle’s students, families and administrators!