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Free early learning program launching in Grants Pass School District

A woman wearing a demin jacket and pink shirt with long hair standing in a classroom and smiling at the camera. The classroom is out of focus, but is designed for young children.
Grants Pass School District
Annie Blanchard, the early childhood family education coordinator for the Grants Pass School District.

A free early learning program is launching in the Grants Pass School District in September. It’s meant to fill a local need for preschool.

Children ages four and five will get the opportunity to develop important social skills with their future classmates in the new program Josephine County Early Works. Parents will also attend the program to learn skills and create connections with their community.

“We do know quite a bit about early learning and brain research and what kids need. And what we realized is that not everybody is aware of that," said Annie Blanchard, the early childhood family education coordinator for the district.

Blanchard said Josephine County reaches just 14% of children under five years old with publicly funded programs, so there’s a need for more early learning opportunities.

“What we’re realizing is that families need help and resources and connections," she said. "Teachers are really sensing that — that children are struggling with all sorts of social-emotional skills, academic skills especially after the pandemic.”

There will be three different classes that meet once a week throughout the school year from 10 a.m. till 12 noon. The groups are divided into which elementary school the child will attend. Blanchard said there will only be 15 spots available for each of the three groups.

This program is funded through this academic year with grants from the Ford Family Foundation, AllCare Health, and Siskiyou Community Health Center. Blanchard hopes to use the program to launch dedicated preschools at every elementary school within the district in five years.

Applications are open now, and close on Sept. 11. Blanchard said the spots are first come, first served, and there will be a wait-list if the spots fill up. The program will begin on Sept. 18.

After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the west coast.