Youngest learners benefit from donation

Pictured: Students participate in Marshall Elementary’s 2018 evening preschool program. The program, already in nine schools, will expand to additional locations next year thanks to a substantial gift from an anonymous donor. Photo credit: Vancouver Public Schools.

Source: Vancouver Public Schools, Communications department. (2018, June 6),

Vancouver Public Schools’ early learning programs and elementary schools received a substantial boost thanks to a donation of $541,300. The money, donated to the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools by an anonymous donor, will benefit early learning programs in the district from 2017 to 2020. It is the largest single gift the foundation has received in its 30 years of operation.

“The depth of support from our community is impressive. Through the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools, we can optimize this generous gift to have a strong impact on students at the local level. This significant investment in Vancouver students will impact our littlest learners and help set students and their families on a path for success,” said Nada Wheelock, executive director, Foundation for VPS.

The majority of the grant—$306,000—will directly grow the district’s preschool programs at schools with a high percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals.

“This donation immediately allows us to expand our preschool program so children who otherwise might not have this learning opportunity can start kindergarten ready to learn on day one,” said Debra Hale, executive director of teaching and learning.

Research shows that readiness for kindergarten is tied to third-grade literacy and on-time graduation.

The district began offering an evening preschool program at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School two years ago. Based on the success of that pilot, the district ran evening preschools at four high-needs schools last year. This school year the evening program was expanded to nine schools and has served 170 students and their families. The goal is to expand it to 15 schools by the 2020-21 school year.

“This gift will be paid forward a thousand times by providing our community’s youngest students with the foundation they need to be successful for the rest of their lives. It benefits them, their siblings, their families and this community,” said Superintendent Steve Webb. “We are grateful to the donor and to the Foundation for VPS for their ongoing partnership and support in improving the lives of our children and youth.”

The preschool program typically is offered one to two nights per week for five to six weeks. Schedules are flexible according to the needs of each school community. Most classes are taught by kindergarten teachers and serve students who will be incoming kindergarteners in the fall. Preschool teaches students social/emotional skills and builds self-confidence.

The Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools will use the remaining funds of the donation to provide direct support for elementary students at 11 high-needs schools. Funds will be used to remove barriers to learning, engage families in their children’s learning and provide enrichment and mentoring opportunities.