Supporting Transformations in After-School Child Care

2022 Dave Mitchell Impact Grantee

By Chris Kenrick, PACF Donor and freelance writer

California is investing in childcare and education, and one of its primary goals is to serve more children ages three to four years old statewide through high-quality preschool programs. California intends to meet this goal through the implementation of universally available transitional kindergarten (TK), as well as investments in other state-funded programs, including funding to expand the California State Preschool Program (CSPP) and other state-subsidized programs that offer a preschool learning experience.

In 2021, educators and California State legislators agreed that every child should have access to TK as a quality learning experience before entering Kindergarten. The recently enacted California Education Code section 48000(c) requires any school district operating a Kindergarten to also provide a TK program for all four-year-old children by the 2025–26 school year.

The Palo Alto Community Fund also believes in investing in early childhood education. Last year they awarded a 2022 Dave Mitchell Impact Grant to help Palo Alto Community Child Care (PACCC) reconfigure its programs to align with these new California state requirements governing TK.

PACCC, a nonprofit organization, has served local families since 1974, providing high-quality care for infants and children through the fifth grade. Currently, the organization cares for more than 900 infants and children in 19 locations throughout Palo Alto, including an after-school “Kids Club” established on 11 elementary school campuses. Now that the Palo Alto Unified School District is offering TK at five elementary schools (Barron Park, Duveneck, El Carmelo, Palo Verde, and Walter Hays), PACCC must open its after-school Kids Club three hours earlier than they had previously to accommodate this younger group of four- and five-year-olds, who are dismissed from regular classroom instruction at 11:30 am. (Historically, PACCC had served that age group in its five preschools, not on elementary school campuses.)

“We’ve had to train staff and develop curriculum at our Kids Clubs to work with what’s traditionally been known as pre-schoolers,” PACCC Executive Director Lee Pfab, said. “The funds from the grant helped our Kids Club teachers, who traditionally work with first- through fifth-graders, to be fully prepared to serve the distinct younger age group of kindergarteners and preschool-age children.”

Pfab says that another challenge was serving four-year-olds through fifth-graders all in the same space, as it required a lot of training and leg work to provide a safe and age-appropriate environment for all the children.

Additionally, PACCC added new curriculum in response to the school district’s “PAUSD Promise” to support mental health. This involves age-appropriate activities in social-emotional learning, including storytelling and puppets. The changes went into effect for the current school year.

“The grant from the Palo Alto Community Fund has really helped us to roll out all of these new programs,” Pfab said.

“PACF Dave Mitchell Impact Grants are particularly focused on supporting nonprofit organizations that address key challenges through transformative initiatives that help affect systemic change,” Palo Alto Community Fund Executive Director Lisa Van Dusen, said. Namesake of the grant, Dave Mitchell, passed away in 2018. Mitchell was a lawyer, community volunteer and former PACF board member.

You can support future Dave Mitchell grants that have a lasting impact on our community by supporting the Palo Alto Community Fund.

[Read our full March newsletter here].