The challenge of preschool

By Cameron Johnson

United Way  Project coordinator

I don’t know what it’s like to register a 3 or 4 year old in preschool. But from the outside looking in, it seems like a pretty easy, straight-forward thing.

  In my time at United Way, I’ve learned that while enrolling your child may not be too complicated — getting your child to preschool is another story entirely.

Imagine being the parent of a 3 or 4 year old and knowing how important it is for your child to be involved in an early learning program — like preschool. Let’s say you’ve successfully enrolled them at a local preschool. You’re excited about doing all you can to make sure they start school on track with their peers. But your child’s class times are in the middle of the workday. You’re a single parent who doesn’t have a flexible work schedule that would allow you to pick them up from daycare to take them to preschool. Or imagine it’s your spouse that’s working the inflexible schedule and has to take your family vehicle to work, your only means of transportation. You’re not left with a lot of options.

Transportation is a huge barrier for many families and scenarios like these are all too common. United Way of Mower County recognized that and with the help of SMART Transportation created the Rainbow Route — bussing for preschoolers in Austin. During the 2014 — 2015 school year, United Way and SMART received over 140 applications for kids in need of transportation and were able to transport over 90 kids to and/or from preschool. This school year we received over 160 applications and of those we’re able to transport over 130. The reason for the increase? We added a route to meet the increasing need for the service — which sounds easy but it’s costly and time consuming.

Routes are created based on getting the most kids to preschool as possible and we encourage all applicants to have a “Plan B” just in case. Since the beginning of the Rainbow Route, we’ve seen the need increase from year to year. And every year, United Way and SMART continue to work towards meeting that growing need. We’re excited about all of the new riders we’re able to get to preschool and looking forward to a great year.

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