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First Bezos Academy free preschool to open in Des Moines

Amazon founder plans many schools for underserved children

The first Bezos Academy, a free preschool for children coming from low-income families, is scheduled to open Oct. 19 in Des Moines.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and owner of the Kent-based Blue Origin aerospace company, announced the opening Tuesday on Instagram.

“This classroom is just the beginning,” Bezos posted. “The @bezosacademy opens its doors on Oct. 19. This one in Des Moines, WA, is the first of many free preschools that we’ll be opening for underserved children. Extra kudos to the team for figuring out how to make this happen even amidst COVID, and to Wesley Homes for stepping up with the facility.”

The classroom will be at the Wesley Homes retirement community, 824 S. 216th St.

Bezos first announced his intention to build a network of preschools in November 2018, when he launched the $2 billion Bezos Day One Fund, according to Forbes.com. The fund has two priorities: giving to nonprofits that are helping homeless families, and building a network of preschools.

The Bezos Day One Fund website says the plan is to launch and operate a network of high-quality, full-scholarship Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities.

“The Fund uses the same set of principles that have driven Amazon,” according to the website. “Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession. The child will be the customer.”

The preschool will operate year-round programming, five days a week for children ages 3 to 5.

“In selecting communities for our preschools, we consider a wide range of data, including income levels, participation in free and reduced-cost meal programs, and gaps in access to licensed childcare providers,” according to the website. “We also look for local organizations and businesses that understand the needs of their community members and are excited about the prospect of hosting a tuition-free, high-quality preschool in their neighborhood.

“Thank you to Wesley Homes for providing us with a facility for the first Bezos Academy, and to the local leaders, neighbors and community groups in Des Moines, and our staff, for working to bring the first of many Bezos Academy preschools to life.”

Students are scheduled to be taught in the classroom, not online.

“We at Bezos Academy are closely monitoring COVID-19 in the community,” according to the academy’s application page. “Bezos Academy is committed to the health and well-being of our students, families, and staff. We follow guidelines from the Washington State Department of Health and US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for child care. Bezos Academy is maintaining a small class size, requiring facial covering for all staff and students, conducting temperature screening at arrival, implementing physical distancing strategies, intensifying cleaning and disinfection efforts, and increasing fresh air ventilation and time outside.”

To be eligible for the program, a child must be 3 or 4 years old by Sept. 1, 2020.

Here are the financial eligibility requirements:

“Eligibility is determined by household income. A household is defined as all the people (adults and children) who live in the same housing unit (house, apartment, condo etc.), whether they are related to each other or not. Household income is the total annual income from everyone in the household. To be eligible for Bezos Academy the student’s annual household income must be less than 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Bezos Academy reserves half of the seats for students coming from families with an income less than 250% of FPL. If your income is more than the income listed, you are ineligible for our program.”

For a household of two, the annual income must be less than $68,960 for the 400% poverty level and less than $43,100 for the 250% poverty level. The income levels go up with more people earning income in a household.

Admission preferences are provided to children who are homeless or living in foster care, siblings of existing Bezos Academy students, and the children of community partners, according to the application form.


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