Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children
Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Cape Cod educators are busy putting together a promising new preschool plan, thanks to a grant from Massachusetts’ Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative.

Using this funding, educators from the Dennis-Yarmouth and Monomoy Regional School Districts are working with leaders from the Cape Cod Collaborative and with private preschools in Dennis, Yarmouth, Chatham, and Harwich to increase preschool quality and access.

This group will submit a proposal to the Department of Early Education and Care by the end of this month. The plan is one of 13 that have been drafted by similar teams in communities across Massachusetts communities this year.

The Cape planning team presented its proposal at “Envisioning Preschool for Every Child,” an open community forum that was held on June 14 at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School. A reporter from the Cape Cod Chronicle covered the event. 

“Access to quality early education is critical to a child’s success,” Jan Rotella, the program’s grant manager, told the Chronicle.

“Cape-wide, we have an estimated 35 percent of children entering kindergarten with no preschool experience,” Chris Martes, president and CEO of Strategies for Children, told the Chronicle. “This represents a glaring need for improved access to quality preschool programs.”

Poverty is a factor.

Citing U.S. Census Bureau statistics, the Chronicle says, “child poverty rates across Cape Cod increased from 8.6 percent in 2000 to 15.4 percent in 2014. According to the Cape Cod Collaborative, increased childhood poverty is compounded by the opioid epidemic, housing instability, foster care crisis, and homelessness.”


Expansion Plans

The product of four months of work, the proposal calls for “a mixed delivery model—one that provides early childhood education in both private and public school settings.” More information about the process is available here.

“Under the proposal, public school administrators and local directors of licensed, private preschools would maintain their respective authority. The collaborating partners would work with their own staffs and faculties to ensure implementation of the goals for early childhood education,” the Chronicle explains.

“Cape project leaders propose a phased-in model for the region, which would entail a 6.5-hour day within a 180-day school year. The approximate cost per child would be $10,500. The strategic plan proposes a three-year, phased-in timeframe with a pilot program the second year.”

“The proposed plan is exactly that—a proposal—which will require funding from a variety of sources,” Julie Hall, grant coach for the Cape Cod Collaborative, told the Chronicle.

The months and years ahead will be critical for the Cape team. The plan’s sustainability strategy calls for a facilities analysis and continued outreach with local stakeholders.

As this work proceeds, lessons will be learned that can inform other Cape towns as they seek to expand preschool access and quality. In addition, the regional nature of this plan may inform other areas of the state that are often overlooked by funders and policymakers – areas relatively small in population but high in socio-economic need that stand to benefit from investments in early learning.

Preschool planners may soon turn into preschool advocates, because as of this writing there is no state funding available to implement the 13 plans funded through this initiative. Strategies for Children is working with several of these communities, including the Cape, to support advocacy at the state and local levels.

Stay tuned in the months ahead as we continue to learn from local preschool plans. We’ll also share stories, lessons, and innovations, and we’ll highlight advocacy opportunities.