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Free preschool may go inside Everett Station

EVERETT — A future, free preschool could go inside Everett Station, and city taxpayers would be covering the rent payments.
The preschool is the Bezos Academy, a nonprofit organization funded through one of the charity foundations created by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
The City Council is being asked to sign a 10-year lease with Bezos Academy at its Jan. 26 meeting.
While the academy isn’t paying, the city would: Everett Transit owns the station, and the city would be paying Everett Transit $5,000 a month for the lease, which is $60,000 a year from the city’s operating budget. The city bus system is a self-funded entity.
Giving space wouldn’t be gifting public funds, city attorneys said last week, because it is a public benefit for low-income children.
Using a lottery, the Bezos Academy admits half of its children from families who earn 400% or less of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, this is $111,000 a year.
Half of the admission slots are reserved for families who earn 250% of the poverty level. For a family of four, that is $45,775 a year.
The academy approached the city sometime in 2021 because it sees Everett as a community with a big gap in early learning education. Certain Everett ZIP codes are classified as “child care access deserts” by state officials.
The academy would serve up to 60 students using a Montessori-style learning environment; students learn in a self-directed and hands-on manner versus under strict regimen.
Part of a parking area on the station’s northside would be converted into the preschool’s playground. Five parking spaces would be removed, city spokesman Julio Cortes said.
Academy representatives said the goal is to provide early learning to tots who might otherwise miss out.
“We are focused on families who earn a little too much to qualify for fully subsidized programs like Fair Start,” which is state funding toward child care, “but who still cannot afford to pay for preschool,” said Emmanuel Imah, who works on regional partnerships for the academy.
Two early education programs, ECEAP and Head Start, serve kids in the foundational ages of 3 to 5 in families living at or below 110 percent the poverty line.
As of last year, there were an estimated 946 fewer classroom seats in Snohomish County than how many children are eligible. Within the Everett School District’s boundaries, there are 295 kids unserved, from a state Department of Children Youth and Families report.
The academy would take part of Everett Station’s first floor, and would be walled off from the rest of the station. Children would get three meals a day and other care.
City Council members were generally supportive when the plan was presented last week.
Mayor Cassie Franklin said that “for our very tiny investment of $60,000 a year to be able to provide childcare for 60 children in poverty ... It is something that (for) that small investment the city can make, the benefit for our community is pretty outstanding.”
The city is working with Bezos Academy to see where additional academies could open elsewhere in the city.




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