To fulfill its mission of educating children during their first five years of life, the nonprofit All Five preschool in Menlo Park's Belle Haven neighborhood is kicking off a campaign this month to raise $800,000 to expand its services.
Officials want to expand the school, which now serves students 2 years and 9 months to pre-kindergarten in its full-time program, to enroll infants and toddlers starting in fall 2020.
School officials hope to break ground in March to retrofit three portable classrooms -- through a lease agreement with the Ravenswood City School District -- adjacent to its campus at 1391 Chilco St. They will bring the classrooms up to fire code, add running water, install bathrooms and make the rooms Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant, according to All Five leaders.
"Full-time, high-quality infant and toddler care is in short supply across the Peninsula, even for families with means," according to informational material provided by the nonprofit. For low- and middle-income families, "there are very limited options and they are perpetually oversubscribed."
Once the expansion is completed, the preschool will have capacity for 36 to 40 preschoolers, three infants and six toddlers. About 24 preschoolers now attend the preschool, said All Five Executive Director Carol Thomsen.
Families are desperate for infant and toddler care on the Peninsula, according to All Five. The school regularly maintains a lengthy waitlist that is nearly triple its capacity for students, according to the presentation.
School in San Mateo County will need to fill about 2,500 teaching spots by 2025 to keep pace with the growing need for early childhood education programs, according to a 2016 early learning facilities needs assessment for the county. Between now and 2025, there is a projected shortage of about 14,000 slots for children in early education classrooms, according to the assessment.
And early childhood education is important because "brains grow more in the first five years of life than during any other time (in) our entire lives," Thomsen said.
The preschool recruited one employee from the Menlo Park-based nonprofit Community Equity Collaborative's newly created Teacher Pipeline Program. The program includes early childhood education courses through Foothill College, along with meals, child care, coaching and loaner laptops, all free of charge. All Five hopes to attract more employees from the program in the future, Thomsen said.
Early childhood education is more segregated by socio-economic background than other education system, according to a new study from Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization focused on public policy.
To address issues like this, half of All Five's students come from low-income families and are supported through public funding. Half of its students come from middle-income and high-income families, who make a financial commitment on a sliding scale according to their financial resources.
All Five wants to double in size in the next 10 years, Thomsen said.
Those interested in donating to All Five's expansion effort can go here.