Preschool the Idaho Way has awarded planning grants to communities across the state to establish preschool collaboratives. The goal is to bring together local experts in early childhood education to pool resources and develop affordable, high-quality early learning opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be available to many families. Each collaborative will look different because each community is different.

The Nampa Early Childhood Learning Center (NECLC) is a developmental preschool serving about 180 students. Most of the children enrolled in the program are eligible for special education services. Now, with a Preschool the Idaho Way planning grant, NECLC will start expanding its capacity with plans to eventually serve all interested families in the Nampa School District. The immediate goal is to add a class of 3- and 4-year-olds for the upcoming school year.

Nampa is a Canyon County city of 93,590, and close to 8% of the population is under the age of 5. There are a variety of both home- and center-based preschool programs in the area, though many do not hire certified teachers. And with 20% of Nampa residents living at or below the poverty line, affordability and accessibility are barriers many families face when searching for early learning programs. NECLC and the Nampa School District aim to change that by offering opportunities for high-quality early childhood education regardless of a family’s income or background.

The district has partnered with Lee Pesky Learning Center to provide professional development to teachers. Collaborative partners also include D.L. Evans Bank and St. Luke’s Health System in Nampa. And NECLC is working closely with Head Start, which joined the campus this year.

In an interview with Idaho AEYC earlier this spring, NECLC Principal Ben Kincheloe discussed the strength of the existing pre-K program.

“It really helps the kids out,” he said. “We have amazing teachers, and everyone who works there is just wonderful. They’re very knowledgeable about the needs of those children. They don’t just support the academics – they support the social and emotional, they support all other needs. And they work great as a team in doing so.”