Redwood City, CA — The California Department of Education (CDE) awarded the San Mateo County Office of Education (SMCOE) a $5 million grant to support its efforts over the next four years to give children ages birth to five greater access to inclusive early learning and care programs. Expanding access to high quality, inclusive learning opportunities for students of all ages in San Mateo County is an important goal of the County Office, and this grant will allow SMCOE to take significant steps towards achieving this goal for the county’s youngest learners.
In inclusive early learning settings, children with and without special needs learn and play together, build relationships and friendships, and develop a sense of belonging and membership. Early childhood teachers, special educators, and family members collaborate to assure each child receives the supports they need to thrive. Inclusive early programs are most successful when all staff and families value learning environments that are welcoming to all children, and when staff members are provided high quality professional development and coaching.
SMCOE’s Inclusive Early Education Expansion Program (IEEEP) will support a number of local school districts to develop programs that ensure young children with disabilities, including children identified with severe disabilities, have access to high quality, subsidized inclusive early learning programs. These programs will receive support for the renovation of early learning and care facilities, including classrooms; professional development and coaching; and the purchase of adaptive equipment and materials that enable all children to access and benefit from early learning activities in inclusive settings. The early learning programs partnering with SMCOE on the IEEEP initiative include preschools operated by the Jefferson Elementary, San Mateo-Foster City, Cabrillo Unified, and San Bruno Park school districts, and all early programs operated at SMCOE’s Anne Campbell Center for Children and Families.
In addition to supporting the development of inclusive early learning programs in select partner districts, IEEEP funds will support the San Mateo County Quality Counts’ effort to pilot an early childhood inclusion specialization badging program for staff development. The badging program, available to all early learning programs countywide, will help build capacity in the workforce in order to continue the expansion of high quality inclusive early learning opportunities once IEEEP funds have been exhausted. IEEEP funds will also support community nonprofit organizations in their efforts to build a comprehensive approach to support children with special needs and disabilities and their families.
Equity is at the center of SMCOE’s vision statement and plays a central role in the IEEEP initiative. The schools supported through the grant are in neighborhoods with some of the greatest needs and lowest incomes in the county. More than a third of the county’s children who are eligible for State-subsidized preschool and child care live in the attendance areas covered by this project. In addition, 83 percent of children in these communities who are ages birth to five and have individual learning plans are served in special day classrooms, rather than inclusive early learning and care settings.
“The work supported by these grant funds will have lifelong positive impacts for participating students. By expanding access to high-quality and inclusive early learning settings, more students will have the resources to fully develop their academic, social, and emotional skills,” explained San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee.
The IEEEP’s measures of success are bold and include: greater rates of enrollment in early learning and care settings for children with disabilities and other exceptional needs; expanded access to care for children representing a broad range of disabilities and different levels of severity; and improved outcomes for children with disabilities and other exceptional needs. SMCOE’s Early Learning Support Services team looks forward to collaborating with CDE; its district partners; and local agencies representing early learning, special education, and families to achieve these important outcomes.
The San Mateo County Office of Education is committed to ensuring excellence and equity in education by inspiring students, investing in teachers, invigorating leaders, and involving communities.