Seattle Preschool Program Provider Transforms School Bus into Mobile Classroom, Bringing Safe, In-Person, Individualized Instruction to Students’ Homes

Contributors: Debra Kinsey, Early Learning Preschool Manager, and Grace Funk, South East Regional Coaching Manager 

Causey's Learning Center Educators standing outside Causey's Classroom on Wheels, waving at the camera, in December 2020.
Causey’s Learning Center Educators standing outside Causey’s Classroom on Wheels in December 2020.

As the 2020-2021 school year nears its end, DEEL is reflecting on the innovative ways our partners and providers pivoted during the pandemic to continue serving Seattle children, youth, and families. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting some of the inspiring work we’ve seen over the last year. Here is one example highlighting one of our Seattle Preschool Program providers, Causey’s Learning Center. 

During the 2020-2021 school year, the Seattle Preschool Program (SPP) looked different from previous years, with smaller class sizes, social distancing, and masked faces all around. For many families and providers, the difference was even greater—some SPP programs opted to provide family-directed remote programming for parents who were more comfortable with their children staying at home, while others offered a combination of both in-person and remote programming.   

Ruth Brown and her team at Causey’s Learning Center, an SPP provider since the program’s inception in 2015, offered remote-only programming at the start of the school year, but their innovative approach brought creative solutions right to the doorsteps of their preschoolers. They called it Causey’s Classroom on Wheels. 

When the pandemic first hit in March 2020 and education shifted to 100% online learning, Causey’s Learning Center recognized that preschool students were at risk of missing the opportunity to develop important social, emotional, and pre-academic skills that would be crucial to their success later in school and in life. In response, Causey’s team of dedicated and inspired educators transformed a school bus—originally purchased for field trips and outings—into a mobile classroom, compliant with all COVID-19 safety precautions required by local and state public health authorities. One month into the 2020-2021 school year, pairs of SPP teachers began conducting home visits to provide comprehensive early learning lessons that included math, science, physical education and social-emotional support to preschool students individually, as well as administer student assessments that would typically be done in the classroom to measure important learning indicators.  

Causey’s home visits also served as an opportunity to deliver essential resources to families who were experiencing new hardships caused by the pandemic. Teachers provided parents with school supplies and food from Seattle’s Farm to Table Program. In December, educators delivered holiday supplies and gifts to spread hope and bring holiday cheer to many who were experiencing unprecedented financial hardship, anxiety, and grief. Providing these additional services enhanced a sense of school community and ensured that all students received the necessary supplies and resources needed they needed to fully participate in early learning education throughout the pandemic. 

Causey’s Learning Center, one of the first African American-owned early learning centers in Seattle, has provided service and nurturing care to our City’s youngest learners for decades. Their founder, Jeanette Lee Causey, is remembered as a pioneer of early child development and a beloved community member whose leadership and support touched the lives of countless young scholars, families, and early learning educators.  

Causey’s Learning Center is now directed by Jeanette’s youngest daughter, Ruth Brown, who is building upon her mother’s legacy by providing a support system to Causey’s educators and ensuring that the Center continues providing children with high-quality early learning education. Jada Fornerette, one of Causey’s Lead Teachers, said about Ruth, “She goes above and beyond to get everyone the resources and tools they need to be successful, whether that be additional classes to further our education or places to go for family needs.”  

Causey’s Learning Center is just one of the many SPP providers who adapted their classrooms and their programs to provide remote and small-group, hybrid in-person instruction throughout the pandemic. Providers are now looking forward to welcoming students back to the classroom for in-person learning during the upcoming 2021-2022 school year, and applications for three- and four-year-olds living in Seattle are now being accepted for classes that start in September. Families can qualify for free or sliding scale tuition based on household income.  

Funded by the Families, Education, Preschool and Promise (FEPP) Levy, Seattle Preschool Program provides accessible, high-quality preschool to Seattle families regardless of their financial means with a focus on eliminating race-based kindergarten readiness gaps. SPP also offers specialized dual-language preschool classrooms throughout the city and culturally responsive early education to help young students learn and grow with peers from all backgrounds. Learn more about SPP and apply today at seattle.gov/applyspp.  

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