Following eight months of study, stakeholder engagement and research, the Walla Walla Public Schools’ Board of Directors reached a unanimous decision in October 2019 to re-purpose Blue Ridge Elementary School, a 70,000 sq ft elementary school, into a regional early learning center for children and families effective the 2020-21 school year
Why Does Walla Walla Need Such a Facility?
Numerous community studies¹, alarming statistics/trends and overwhelming community-wide support point to the need for a comprehensive early learning center for families and youth. Every year, fewer and fewer Walla Walla kindergarten students are entering school prepared socially, emotionally, or academically. Lack of access, influences of poverty, and other contributing factors continue to impact readiness. Data reveals that nearly 2/3rds of incoming kindergarten students³ lack availability to formal early learning experience/exposure in the Walla Walla region. With less than one in four kindergarten students coming to school kindergarten ready², nearly half the statewide average, this has resulted in dramatic challenges in ensuring social and academic success for all.
10 Years of Research and Outreach All Point to the Need for a Comprehensive Early Learning Center
Walla Walla cares deeply for its young children and families. Over the last decade, several groups have convened to explore the needs of young children and to make recommendations on how to address those needs as a community. Multiple studies and workgroups1 all point to a comprehensive birth to five early learning center to address the valley’s lack of access and streamline/improve coordination of services.
From Vision to Reality - Coordinating Resources and Developing Aligned Services and Systems
Outreach performed to date has already identified over two dozen partner agencies as possible service providers/tenants who may wish a presence at the Walla Walla Center for Children and Families. From private to public to non-profit organizations, the district works in partnership with community resources and providers as they scaffold programs and services for children and families in the Walla Walla Valley. The WWPS Board and leadership remain committed to working collaboratively with regional partners and programs to ensure that Center programs do not adversely impact community early learning providers.
¹ 2009 Community Council Study: Enhancing the Educational Attainment of Our Valley’s Children; 2015 Walla Walla Valley Early Learning Coalition Study: Mobilization Taskforce & Early Learning Agenda Setting; 2016 Community Council Study: Education as a Path to Economic Growth; 2016 Sherwood Trust Study: Early Years Taskforce; 2016 Collaborative Study: Community Conversations
² 2019 WaKIDS
³ 3,462 children in Walla Walla County with only 1,261 licensed child care slots available