The Early Childhood Alliance will be hosting several virtual events in the coming weeks centered around getting kids back to school and educating parents on the value of early childhood education.
Originally formed as a task force on early childhood education for the Park City Community Foundation, the Early Childhood Alliance is focused on providing children in the Wasatch Back equitable and abundant opportunities from the prenatal stage through their third year.
The Alliance is also part of the ongoing social equity work between the Community Foundation and Park City Municipal. Kristin Schulz is the coordinator for the Early Childhood Alliance and says early childhood care is about much more than just providing a safe place for children while their parents are at work.
“This is also a social and economic justice issue,” she said. “When we look at the data, there are significant disparities in kindergarten readiness that are based on income, minority status, and English language fluency. One of the outcomes that we’re really trying to change by our efforts is to make sure that all of our kids are kindergarten ready by the time they are of age to go to kindergarten.”
The Alliance is funded through the early childhood fund at the Park City Community Foundation and has about $750,000 to spend on programs this year. Schulz says they estimate about 1,800 children in the Wasatch Back could be helped by the services, as well as up to 1,000 children of out-of-town workers who commute to the area each week.
The alliance will be holding a virtual back-to-school roundtable discussion at 1 p.m. on Aug. 18 to answer questions from parents wary about sending their little ones to school in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Brandy Rasmussen is the director of Creekside Kids Academy and Peek Program and says much of the back to school discussion so far has been centered on older students.
“Just like the elementary schools, parents have a lot of questions and there is a lot of unknown,” Rasmussen said. “We’re all dealing with those challenges and I think that’s going to be one of the big benefits to having this panel discussion. Parents are going to have the opportunity to figure out and learn what we’re doing and how we’re moving forward.”
A recent report by National Public Radio says at least 97,000 children tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks of July. Schulz says the decision to send young children to pre-K is ultimately up to parents but adds she believes the benefits of early childhood programs will be hard to turn down.
“I think when you look at the data overall though, the overwhelming benefits of being in a high quality childcare environment are powerful,” Schulz said. “You also have the issue of, you know, the workforce issue. It is very difficult to work at home with a toddler. Childcare, I think a lot of people might not think about this, but childcare is really a two-generation workforce issue because it’s essential to support your workers who actually are working today, the parents, but it’s really also vital to developing our workforce for tomorrow.”
Schulz adds that all of the associated childcare providers are adhering to strict health guidelines as the school year approaches.
The Early Childhood Alliance will be holding a fundraiser on Sept. 22 and additional details will be provided as they become available. For more information on the Alliance or to register for the back-to-school roundtable, visit earlychildhoodalliance.net.