Preschool begins at DMPS this week and there is so much to celebrate! This year the district added six new preschool classrooms thanks to a partnership with the City of Des Moines. You won’t understand what a big deal this is until you know that 50% of Des Moines families with preschool-age students can’t access the opportunity.
“It’s so exciting!” said preschool teacher Julie Noe, who knows the difference an early childhood education can make in the lives of students.
“I love seeing how much the students grow throughout the year socially and academically,” Noe said. “I love engaging in conversations with them, watching them grow excited about learning, and listening to their stories.”
The DMPS Data, Assessment, and Evaluation team has provided evidence that students who attend preschool are twice as likely to meet reading and math benchmarks throughout elementary school, and students living in poverty are three times as likely to meet those benchmarks.
Even with the academic and social advantages provided by high-quality preschool, 50 percent of Des Moines preschool-aged students still can’t access the opportunity. When preschool isn’t offered full-day, transportation and childcare costs are barriers for some families.
Des Moines City Councilperson, and former DMPS school board member, Connie Boesen advocated for expanded access to preschool while she was on the Board and saw a chance for the City to help when American Rescue Plan Act funds became available.
“We reached out to the school district to find out how we could help them by providing funding for preschool with a day care component,” Boesen said. “It is an educational investment and a work force issue for parents.”
The new preschool classrooms at Capitol View, Greenwood, Carver, and Jackson elementary schools serve dozens of students, with high quality preschool programming and wraparound daycare. The City of Des Moines has invested $3.9 million over 3 years with $3.3 million going to DMPS and the additional $600,000 supporting scholarships for partner preschool sites.
“It’s exciting knowing that more preschoolers will receive services to help prepare them for kindergarten,” Noe said. “The benefits are tremendous!”
The six new full-day classrooms openings were quickly filled by families with students waiting for this opportunity.
“Which I think speaks to the need for high quality full-day preschool programming in our community,” said Kristin Rourk, Director of Early Childhood Education. “Our collaboration will have a profound impact on our students and families. It speaks to the city’s investment in our youth and community.”
The City’s investment will also generate some state funding in future years. The State of Iowa requires districts to educate a preschool student for a full year before it will provide dollars for that student. Even then, the resources are 50% of what is provided for a K-12 student. As school leaders and lawmakers continue to work on solutions, the City of Des Moines is making an investment in its own future by giving more preschool students a brighter future.
“Great cities have strong partnerships with schools and we hope this is just one in a long line of examples to come,” said Tim Schott, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning. “These partnerships are key to expanding what we know works, namely early access to high quality preschool experiences. The data is clear and consistent regarding the benefit of preschool for students and families.”