Iowa families will have a new option for early education this year. The nonprofit organization Waterford.org is offering free preschool to 200 children in the state.
The program is called Waterford Upstart and works with children and parents through online lessons. Spokeswoman Kim Fischer says the online approach is imperative, which is why the software and internet access will be made available for free.
“What we aim to do is close the gap between the children who are doing well and the children who are not,” Fischer says. “So if there are children that don’t have access to early education, those are the children that we’re looking to reach.”
Although the application is open now to all families, the program will focus on children in need and those in underserved populations. Fischer says the program centers on Iowans who don’t have access to brick and mortar schools, and on those who don’t speak English fluently.
“Those are the children we want to reach,” she says. “So truly, it is about finding the children that don’t have access and giving them this access to early education.”
Previous CDC research found Hispanic students have the lowest rates of access to in-person schools. The program will run from August through May.
(By Kassidy Arena, Iowa Public Radio)