On Monday, May 22nd, families filled the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry with laughter, smiles and play alongside our Early Learning Multnomah Preschool Promise team and their preschool program partners: Albina Head Start, Mt Hood Community College Head Start, Neighborhood House, PPS Early Learners and Preschool for All. As kids were making towers, watching paper cups fly and learning the science of water pressure to launch bottles, publicly funded preschools from across Multnomah County were eager to engage and inform parents on their options for preschool programs and providers.
The excited Early Learning team and partners hosted the first Preschool Information and Sign-Up Event at OMSI to ensure low-income, working, Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latino, Slavic, immigrant and refugee families could enjoy the museum free of cost. The hands-on exhibits, untangling puzzles and music taping labs at OMSI aligned with the Early Learning Multnomah Hub’s continuous efforts to increase children’s access to STEM and high-quality preschool. With an attendance of 277, a steady flow of parents strolled from table to table asking questions about free and reduced-cost, high-quality preschool programs across the county while their kids were able to run, play, jump, learn and create.
The event focused on engaging families with two- to three-year-old children, and targeted diverse communities with a wide array of backgrounds, incomes, cultures and service needs. It also served as a valuable way for our team to build deeper partnerships with our partners and other organizations working to ensure preschool is more accessible.
Additionally, the event marked the launch of Preschool Marketplace, a newly developed website where parents can search for the nearest publicly funded preschool provider. This website is a tool developed by parents and for parents, with the guidance of Early Learning Multnomah’s Parent Accountability Council and built in partnership with other publicly funded preschool programs. Our team knows that, with the multitude of programs available, parents can be overwhelmed by the process of finding a preschool for their child. This tool simplifies a process to ensure that, as the stresses of childcare build up, finding a high-quality preschool is easier than ever.
"Parents have let us know how confusing it is to find a preschool and that they have to do a lot of searching," said Molly Day, Early Learning Director at United Way of the Columbia-Willamette. "This new website makes it easier to search all the programs by what's closest to a family's home or work, and we’re super grateful to our partners for stepping up to make it happen."
This inimitable desire to support families that are often hard to reach is what drives our Early Learning Multnomah Preschool Promise team to continue putting on events like the one at OMSI with their partners. We know that families thrive when they are connected to their child’s education. Through collaboration and communication between the programs sharing their program information to families and between staff, we are working to keep families from falling through the cracks in the system.
"We encourage families to apply to all their preferred providers and programs to see where they get placed. Our wrap around service model means we provide families with resources on services available to them. This website is a tool for both families but also staff supporting families in finding what program they should apply or enroll in for preschool," said Destiny Magana-Pablo, Bilingual Coordinated Enrollment Project Manager at United Way of the Columbia-Willamette.
We are working to make it as easy as possible for families to find their best fit from among the array of free and reduced cost options available in our county. Our Preschool Promise team and our partners Albina Head Start, Mt Hood Community College Head Start, Neighborhood House, PPS Early Learners, Preschool for All, and 211info will continue to show up across different community events throughout the summer to engage and connect families to all their options across Multnomah County. Keep an eye out for us and check out the new website!