Our view: Investing in preschool is money well spent | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Investing in preschool is money well spent

At issue: This fall marks the start of Steamboat Springs’ district-run preschool.

Our view:

Incorporating preschool into the district’s elementary school curriculum has the potential to impact little learners’ lives.

Editorial Board

Suzanne Schlicht, publisher and COO

Lisa Schlichtman, editor

Tom Ross, reporter

Diane Moore, community representative

Carl Steidtmann, community representative

School is back in session, and the Steamboat Springs School District is now operating its own preschool. The program, which serves 3 to 6 year olds, was previously run by the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services, or BOCES, but this fall became part of the district’s elementary program.

At issue: This fall marks the start of Steamboat Springs’ district-run preschool.

Our view:

Incorporating preschool into the district’s elementary school curriculum has the potential to impact little learners’ lives.

We believe incorporating a preschool program into the district’s educational curriculum is a positive step that further strengthens the district’s already stellar track record of producing graduates who are among the top in the state. Now, Steamboat’s littlest learners are receiving the early childhood education they need to start kindergarten on a firm foundation that will lead to greater opportunities for scholastic success during their ensuing 13 years of school and beyond.

We also should note that Steamboat Springs and Routt County are also served by several highly rated preschool programs that have been operating in the community for a number of years. These programs have served local preschoolers and families well but spots fill up fast.

Discussions about the school district taking over preschool operations from BOCES began last April. At that time, school administrators said they believed they could run the program more efficiently if it became part of the elementary school, and they also said that bringing the preschool program under the district’s umbrella would strengthen the school’s early childhood education efforts.

Now that the switch in the program’s management has been made, the district reports it is saving $30,000 a year by operating the preschool itself. This points to a more efficient use of taxpayers money, which is always a welcome approach.

We contend that funding allocated for early childhood education is money well spent. A preschool program operated by the school district ensures that the youngest students are getting the foundation they need to become lifetime learners, and the earlier investments can be made in children’s education the better.

We were also pleased to learn the district is utilizing the program to identify students who require support services from the district and get them into the school system earlier through preschool enrollment. Early intervention helps students acquire the tools necessary to enter kindergarten with the educational and social skills they need to succeed academically, which in turn helps close the achievement gaps that can exist for minority and low-income families.

Research indicates that high quality preschools have the potential to not only impact academic achievement but can produce other long-term socioeconomic benefits like increased high school graduation rates, higher earnings and reduced crime and teen pregnancy rates. The biggest effects of a strong preschool education are experienced by children from low-income households, but research also proves quality preschool programs positively impact children from middle-income families, dual language learners and children with special needs.

Long-range, the district hopes to expand its preschool program to include students as young as 2 1/2 and eventually move the classes onto elementary campuses. A facilities plan, which is part of a proposed $92 million bond issue voters will decide in November, includes renovation of Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools to make room for two preschool classes on each campus, which would double the district’s current preschool capacity of 48 students.

We applaud the district for taking over operations of its own preschool and saving money in the process. An emphasis on early childhood education is key to laying a foundation for future academic success, and we are pleased to see the district is looking for ways to strengthen and expand services to its youngest students.

Investments made in high quality early childhood education pay big dividends. Research shows that there is a critical window of opportunity when the human brain is forming during the early years in a child’s life. Preschool programs, like the one offered in Steamboat, have the power to shape important cognitive and social skills within the brain that can determine a child’s future success in school and in life.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.