The Pasco School District has received $300,000 from the state that will go toward building a preschool center.
District officials confirmed to the Herald that the money was written into a supplemental state capital budget approved by the Legislature earlier this spring.
The dollars are still far short of the $2.5 million originally requested by the district, said Assistant Superintendent Sarah Thornton, but it is enough to get started on the engineering and architectural work.
“The district plans to renew its request for the remaining $2.2 million next year,” Thornton said in a statement.
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Pasco announced in spring 2015 that the district wanted to establish the Pasco Early Learning Center in order to serve its most at-risk preschool-age children.
The district plans to renew its request for the remaining $2.2 million next year.
Sarah Thornton, Pasco School District
Plans for the early learning center involve renovating the Pasco Senior Center, a project expected to cost about $5 million.
The district planned to cover half of that expense, which would pay for buying the senior center on Seventh Avenue and part of the renovation.
Pre-kindergarten learning falls outside the responsibilities of school districts. However, Pasco administrators have said its incoming kindergartners are so far behind academically that working with them earlier could make them more likely to do well in school and graduate from high school.
The state has ramped up its efforts to improve access to early education, providing funding in recent years for additional preschool slots in Benton and Franklin counties through the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, or ECEAP.
There’s also a push to make all-day kindergarten universally available statewide within the next few years.
And Pasco isn’t the only district interested in reaching kids before they’re in a kindergarten classroom.
The Richland School District may turn Jefferson Elementary School in central Richland into a pre-kindergarten center, as well as for developmentally disabled preschool services, after a new elementary school is built to house Jefferson’s current students.