Thank you Blue Rose Foundation for your recent generous gift of $3000 to the Seattle Children’s PlayGarden. We appreciate your commitment and belief that equal access to resources start children on an early pathway to success, and strengthens our families and communities. Because of funders like you, we can provide preschool classes in person and in compliance with CDC, State, and local safety regulations during COVID 19.
The Blue Rose Foundation was born out of the Blue Rose Benefit concert, first held in June 2014 to honor the spirit and life of their friend Joe Capone by establishing a scholarship fund in his name at Sonoma’s Old Adobe School. They raised over $25,000—enough to fund five half-day, year-round preschool scholarships. Since then they have added new scholarships to five preschools coast to coast. For all children, education is a stone in the path to a successful life. By awarding preschool scholarships to children of low-income families, Blue Rose Foundation helps provide a stepping stone for children to access the tools they need to reach their full potential and break the low socio-economic cycle.
With the help of organizations like Blue Rose Foundation we are thrilled to welcome preschoolers and staff back and in person this fall to the Seattle Children’s PlayGarden. Normally our outdoor preschool program serves 75 students and offers half-day preschool from September to June. 54% of our students have disabilities or have a sibling with a disability and 36% of our students receive tuition assistance. We award $30,000 in tuition assistance, each year, and priority is given to children with disabilities, children of color, and children from low-income families. No family is turned away from our preschool for financial reasons.
The Covid-19 global pandemic has created extreme hardships and challenges for all families and schools but no one group has been affected more than children with disabilities. Preschool-age children in general and special education students, in particular, have difficulty accessing and benefiting from online learning. Many children, who previous to Covid-19, received speech, physical and occupational therapy as well as educational services, critical to their development, were left with no services at all.
Adjusting During COVID-19
In March of 2020, the PlayGarden preschool program followed the Stay at Home order issued by Governor Inslee. In the Spring our staff has conducted online learning and individual parent coaching. In the Summer, PlayGarden staff wrote lessons for our Online Inclusion Learning Hub and wrote a book on our unique preschool program: Inclusive Preschool Through the Seasons: Lessons and stories from 10 years of nature- based inclusive preschool. The book will be published this coming winter. During the spring and Summer, the PlayGarden Board of Directors and staff met several times to develop a plan on how we could best serve our families. The decision was made to continue preschool, once the Stay at Home order was lifted.
Our main concerns were the safety of the children and staff. Utilizing information from Seattle-King County Public Health and expertise from local pediatricians on our board, we adapted our program in several ways. The PlayGarden preschool program is located on our one-acre site, and class takes part outdoors approximately 75% of the time. Because of the outdoor nature of our program we felt well situated to resume classes.
Preschool in the time of COVID-19
The main change we have made is the reduction of class size from 15 children per day to 8 children per day, 4 children at a time. Students are enrolled in either a morning pod (8:30am-11:30am) or an afternoon pod (12:00-3:00pm) and attend either 3 days per week (M, W, F Led by Teacher Sophie) or two days per week (T/TH led by Teacher Hannah). We have also instituted a wide range of safety measures including the use of masks for teachers, increased cleaning procedures, drop off and pick up at the gate, and a commitment by families to pay careful attention to, and report on, the health of all members of their household and to practice social distancing when out of school. Due to the significant financial strain Covid-19 dealt our organization and the reduction in enrollment we have had to reduce our staff from four teachers to two.
Ongoing Financial Assistance to Families
We believe deeply in social equity, we are continuing to provide financial assistance to families in the form of scholarships. We are currently giving approximately $1,000/month in tuition assistance for a yearly total of $10,000. We are able to offer scholarships at this time because of generous funders like the Blue Rose Foundation.
Fall at the PlayGarden
This fall preschoolers are learning and establishing routines, working on social communication and problem solving, exploration, and building relationships with each other, our flock of chickens, ducks and rabbits, their teachers and the garden as a whole. We’re so happy to offer in person school again and equally as excited to keep learning and growing with this wonderful group of PlayGardeners this year.
Our objectives are clear: we strive to give EVERY child who walks, rolls or crawls through our gates, the opportunity to play. We do not turn any child away because of their ability to play or their ability to pay.
Find out more about how you can support our mission and the programs we offer on our website here, Seattle Children’s PlayGarden.
Again, thank you Blue Rose Foundation for your ongoing support.