Sign up now for preschool programs

OBSERVER FILE PHOTOA firefighter visited a Peninsula preschool class, part of many efforts to enrich young lives on the Peninsula.

PENINSULA — There is strong evidence that kids who go to good preschool programs do better throughout their school careers, and beyond.

Now, there’s a chance for local kids, ages three to five, to benefit from an early childhood education at zero cost. Two free public preschool programs are currently recruiting new students to fill open spots.

The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) is run by the state of Washington. Classes take place at the Early Learning Center, near Long Beach Elementary. Students attend school at least two days a week, for about six hours per day.

Head Start is a federal prekindergarten program. Classes take place at the Head Start center, on Pacific Avenue, north of downtown Long Beach. Students attend school five days per week, for five-and-a-half hours per day.

There are slight differences in the eligibility requirements and goals of each program, but both focus on preparing kids for kindergarten by teaching social, motor and language skills, basic math and reading concepts and health and nutrition. Both offer free transportation to and from school, health screenings, resources for parents and free healthy meals.

The programs prioritize children who come from low-income families, as well as those who have special needs, or certain risk-factors, such as being homeless or in foster care. However, remaining openings sometimes go to kids who don’t meet all of the eligibility criteria.

For more information about Head Start, call 360-642-5471.

For more information about ECEAP, call 360-642-4089.

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