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State grant program allows free program for low-income families at eight sites this fall.

Clackamas County announced this week that it is offering a variety of opportunities for children 3-4 to participate in preschool for free this fall.

Eight sites across the county are now participating in a state-funded grant program called "Preschool Promise" that aims to improve access to early childhood learning for low-income families. The program offers free, full-day preschool to children from income-eligible families in a variety of classroom settings including both in-person and distance learning. PMG FILE PHOTO - Clackamas County families living at or below 200% of the federal poverty guideline are eligible for free, full-day preschool options for both in-person and distance learning through the state's 'Preschool Promise' grant program.

The announcement comes as Clackamas County continues to hear reports of how working families are struggling to find childcare as schools remain closed, often forcing parents to choose between being a dual-income family and paying for childcare, or one of them quitting to stay at home with the kids. This phenomenon has uniquely impacted women, with more than 1 million leaving the workforce nationwide since March.

According to Chelsea Hamilton, Clackamas County's parenting and early learning systems coordinator, one of the keys to a child reaching their full potential and becoming successful in school is starting them early.

"Learning during the preschool years is critical to a child's development and readiness to begin kindergarten," Hamilton said. "Students who enter kindergarten behind in their learning can have a difficult time catching up. Preschool Promise classrooms or virtual classes can help your child be prepared by practicing the social, emotional and academic skills they need to be successful in kindergarten and beyond."

Preschool Promise was established as a model for a publicly funded preschool system. Program goals are to support young children thrive and succeed in school and life, allow families to choose preschools that meet their needs, provide a set of common standards to promote school readiness and engage families, and to provide culturally and linguistically responsive services and opportunities for underrepresented communities in Oregon.

Families that qualify must live at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. That threshold is approximately $52,000 annual income for a family of four.

Participating preschools in Clackamas County include Cheerful Hearts Day School in Damascus, Happy Valley Montessori School in Clackamas, Sandy Grade School, Sunshine Early Childcare Center in Milwaukie, Gladstone Teaching Preschool, Maryam's Preschool in Lake Oswego, the Oregon Child Development Coalition in Mulino and Nonnie's Village in Canby.

For more information about free preschool options in Clackamas County or to apply, families are encouraged to contact enrollment specialist Kristen Wiidanen by call or text at 971-710-3985, by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by visiting https://earlylearninghubofclackamascounty.org/preschool-promise.


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