New early learning centers coming this fall

7/13/2016 | TACOMA, Washington

​Studies show lifelong benefits accrue when a child attends a quality pre-kindergarten program, including higher rates of high school graduation, home ownership and college degrees. To set Tacoma students off on the best possible foot, Tacoma Public Schools will open two new early learning centers this fall, at Washington and McCarver elementary schools.

Studies show lifelong benefits when a child attends preschool.
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Part 3 of the Tacoma Public Schools Strategic Plan says: “We will focus on early assessment and intervention at the Pre-K through 3rd grade levels to ensure early academic success.” By offering a variety of early learning opportunities in areas where families need them most, the district wants to prepare more children to enter kindergarten ready to succeed.

Early learning centers provide a comprehensive range of resources, all under one roof, designed to further this goal. Currently the district offers preschool programs at 32 of Tacoma’s 35 elementary schools but just two comprehensive facilities, the Willard Early Learning Center and the multi-purpose Madison Complex.

The new facilities will offer Peer Inclusion preschool, a language-rich program that allows children to play and learn together with peers who have developmental delays. Preschoolers will learn a variety of skills that will prepare them for kindergarten and beyond. Also available at both locations: ChildFind, a screening program to identify children with learning disabilities and provide services to address their needs as early as possible.

The School Board plans to vote July 14 on a proposal to rename both facilities as McCarver Early Learning Center and Hoyt Early Learning Center.

The former Hoyt Elementary School, part of the Washington Elementary complex, will house the Hoyt Early Learning Center. Built in 1957 as a four-classroom addition to Washington, Hoyt’s funding came partially from the National Plywood Association, which promoted architect Robert Price’s design as a less expensive way to expand existing school facilities. A “Schools of the Future” exhibit featuring Hoyt appeared all over the world.

The Hoyt Early Learning Center also will include a community partnership with the Children's Museum of Tacoma.

The Peer Inclusion preschool at Hoyt is already full, but the Children’s Museum program, “Powered by Play,” has openings for this fall. You can get more information from the Children’s Museum at (253) 627-6031, extension 228, or online at

The building that will house the McCarver Early Learning Center faced opposition from the NAACP when Tacoma Public Schools built it in 1962, over concerns the expansion would create a segregated school. Originally built as a junior high school, McCarver transitioned to an elementary school in 1968, as part of a general program to create greater racial integration across the district.

McCarver’s center includes a large multipurpose room, office space and classrooms and will accommodate the Peer Inclusion preschool, two Headstart preschools and a ChildFind satellite location. Local partner agencies—Communities in Schools, Palmer Scholars, Tacoma Housing Authority and Peace Community Center—will share office space, the large multi-purpose room and open-air courtyard.

All McCarver preschool programs still have openings. For more information, visit the Tacoma Public Schools Early Learning website.