Head Start programs will remain at the Kent Valley Early Learning Center

Starter and early start space used by Kent Youth and Family Services will remain at the Kent Valley Early Learning Center even with a new Bezos Academy preschool planning to move into the building.

The Kent School Board voted 3-2 on Jan. 12 to lease space at the Kent Valley Learning Center, 317 Fourth Ave. S., to the non-profit Bezos Academy to open a preschool for children ages 3 to 5 from low-income families. The free preschool is expected to open in the fall, although no firm date has been released by Bezos Academy.

Kent Youth and Family Services uses seven classrooms, a main office, attendance office, kitchen, cafeteria, play area and gymnasium, Kent School District spokeswoman Melissa Laramie said in a statement. January 21 email. The nonprofit group uses the space free of charge under an annually renewed memorandum of understanding with the district, which owns the building.

“Kent Youth and Family Services will not have to move spaces or relocate to make room for Bezos Academy,” Laramie said. “The building would essentially be split in two between Kent Youth and Family Services and Bezos. Kent Youth and Family Services currently only uses half of the building, and the half that Bezos would use is currently vacant.

The academy plans to use five classrooms to accommodate around 100 students aged 3 to 5. The lease is $1 a month for 10 years, as the nonprofit academy is looking for community partners willing to provide essentially free rent. The center is opposite Kent Town Hall.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and founder of Kent-based aerospace company Blue Origin, is paying for Montessori-inspired preschools and opened his first location in 2020 in Des Moines. Other locations include Federal Way, Pacific Beach on the Washington Coast, and two in Tacoma.

The district will keep two larger classroom spaces vacant for a possible move of the Kent Area Council Parent Teacher Student Association clothing bank from the former Kent Phoenix Academy, which the district could use for an additional middle school, Laramie said.

The federal Jumpstart program and the Early Childhood Education and Support Program provide free preschool education and support services for children ages 3 to 5, as well as resource referrals and training opportunities for children. families who meet the income eligibility criteria and who live in the Kent school. Neighborhood boundaries.

Both of these programs, however, have waiting lists.

Emmanuel Imah, regional partnership development manager for the Bezos Academy, said during a January 12 workshop presentation to the school board that Head Start has a waiting list in Kent even for those who qualify and that some families need help with preschool but don’t qualify under the starting income guidelines.

School board president Leslie Hamada, who voted to lease space at Bezos Academy, said in a Kent Reporter Facebook post that the advance was filled.

“Washington State has not increased its budget in ECAP and ACAP to add more available openings there,” Hamada said of the Kent Valley Early Learning Center. “So there are long waiting lists for children to get that desire and need for free kindergarten.”

Hamada said Bezos Academy will provide more opportunities for children from low-income families.

“This is just another (nonprofit) partner that provides an opportunity for Montessori-style programming,” Hamada said.

The district held kindergarten classes at the Kent Valley Early Learning Center, but no longer needed that space when the new River Ridge Elementary School opened last fall.

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