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Interest in early childhood education sought for Lyle, Dallesport communities

Poseidon Essex and Ella Zaugg explored the letter F by creating flowers in Shelly Spadaro's kindergarten class at Dallesport Elementary last Thursday. The Lyle School District, Mid-Columbia Children's Council, and Educational Services District 112 are exploring options for bringing an Early Childhood and Education Assistance Program (ECEAP) back to the Lyle and Dallesport area. ECEAP serves as an environment where 3- and 4-year-olds can learn basic social and academic skills before entering the kindergarten classroom.

Photo by Amber Marra
Poseidon Essex and Ella Zaugg explored the letter F by creating flowers in Shelly Spadaro's kindergarten class at Dallesport Elementary last Thursday. The Lyle School District, Mid-Columbia Children's Council, and Educational Services District 112 are exploring options for bringing an Early Childhood and Education Assistance Program (ECEAP) back to the Lyle and Dallesport area. ECEAP serves as an environment where 3- and 4-year-olds can learn basic social and academic skills before entering the kindergarten classroom.



Three entities are exploring the possibility of bringing an Early Childhood and Education Assist-ance Program (ECEAP) back to serve the Lyle and Dallesport area, but are in need of qualifying parents to express interest first.

The Mid-Columbia Children’s Council (MCCC), Lyle School District, and Educational Service District 112 (ESD 112) have been working together to re-establish Lyle and Dallesport ECEAP.

That area’s ECEAP was nixed when the arbitrary and across-the-board cuts known as the sequester took effect in 2013-2014. Now that the three entities are attempting to form a partnership to bring it back for next school year, income-eligible parents expressing interest in taking advantage of the program are vital to its return in Dallesport, according to Matthew Solomon, executive director of the MCCC.

“One big ‘if’ is if there are enough income-eligible children in the area. We need at least nine to ten kids that are eligible, or we can’t go to the state to ask for the money for (ECEAP) because we can’t justify the need,” Solomon said.

To get the program started, there needs to be at least 10 income-eligible families expressing interest as soon as possible.

Income eligible parents of 3- or 4-year-old children should contact Julie Larson, parent-student community engagement specialist with the Lyle School District, immediately if interested. She can be reached at 509-365-2211.

When it comes to ECEAP, “income eligible” means a family has to be 110 percent of the federal poverty level or below. For example, a family of four that makes $26,235 per year would qualify as 110 percent of the federal poverty guideline and therefore be eligible for ECEAP.

According to Larson, children from outside the Lyle and Dalles-port area would be accepted into the program, but they might not be eligible for transportation to the ECEAP facility, if it comes to fruition.

“Any child that’s in foster care would be a priority, children with disabilities are welcome and we’d be ready to accommodate them, plus we would have bilingual staff,” Larson said.

But all of that is dependent on a few things. As previously mentioned, the school district, the MCCC, and ESD 112 need to know that there is a need for the return of an ECEAP in the Lyle-Dallesport area, then if 10 or more families do express interest the three entities have to apply for the funding from the state to form the program and get it going for next school year, according to Solomon.

“There’s a lot of ‘ifs.’ If the state of Washington and the legislature provide us with funding for expansion of ECEAP we’d also have to see which particular design the funding could support. We’re not sure if it would be a three-day model, like we run in Goldendale, or five days per week, which is unlikely unless they really increase the amount of funding we get per child,” Solomon said.

Larson said programs like ECEAP and Head Start are important for 3- and 4-year-olds because it gets them ready to enter a structured learning environment.

“They develop really valuable social skills and they learn to interact with their peers and get a lot of really good exercise and support for their health, like meals, and they learn basic academics, like the alphabet and how to write their names, how to handle books and that school and learning is fun,” she said.

Larson hopes that if ECEAP is established it can be close to Dallesport Elementary School so the children in the program can occasionally get a taste for what goes on in a kindergarten classroom before initiating their academic career.

“Some kids are anxious when they hear about school, so it can reduce that. The nice thing about being so close to Dallesport Elementary would be that kids can interact and get a sense of what kindergarten will be like, which is all part of preparing them to be successful in school,” Larson said.



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