Salish School adds new building to campus
Despite the struggles created by the pandemic, Salish School of Spokane will add a new building to its campus, allowing them more space to teach young children in two programs and a bit of breathing room and to continue their vision of teaching from cradle to college. The plan is to move students in on March 31.
“We’re a small organization, we’re always operating at maximum capacity just building curriculum, teaching language to our teachers so they can turn around and be immersion language teachers for our kids. So even a small construction project has been a lift for us,” said Chris Parkin, principal of the school.
With support from Vadon Foundation, Satterberg Foundation and Group Health Foundation throughout the last 18 months, Parkin said they were able to put a downpayment last March and purchase their facilities on a contract. Before then, the school had been renting for the past 10 years.
Citing how they have always been crowded, Parkin said the funding allowed them to make campus improvements, including proper sidewalks, parking and the modular building that will be added. This installment will add two classrooms, each with their own bathroom, and house the school’s Early Childhood Education Assistance Program (ECEAP) as well as an Early ECEAP Pilot program.
ECEAP is a program funded by Washington state for children ages 3 and 4 that provides free early learning child care or preschool to support development and learning. These children are either on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for special education or come from families at or below 110 percent of the federal poverty level, according to the Washington State Department of Children, Youth & Families’s (DCYF) website.
The pilot program, according to the DCYF’s website, seeks to serve more at-risk infants and toddlers with comprehensive early learning and family support services. It is part of the state’s efforts to increase the availability of quality services to infants and toddlers, including child care for low-income families.
Both classrooms will have students from both ECEAP funding and private pay.
“Every space is full and has been for a number of years, so this will give us a couple years of breathing room and then we still have to look about what we can do to improve our facilities,” Parkin said.
LaRae Wiley, co-founder of the school, said that they have been in a facilities crunch for several and have had to sometimes tear down services they offered to families. The expansion will allow them to be more stable and consistent with programming and have the facilities necessary for all classes.
“[The expansion] allows us to serve our families from 1-years-old clear up through high school because before, when we didn’t have the facility, we had to close down the infant and toddler classroom,” Wiley said.
She added that closing down the classroom created pressures for families because they had to take one child to the school and another to a different daycare. This expansion will let parents have all of their children at one site.
Not only will the additional building add more space, Parkin said it will improve safety regarding COVID-19.
Despite the lockdown, Parkin said they have been fortunate to offer full-live instruction since June 22 of last year and provide child care to essential workers last April, May and June, thanks to financial support from funders. He added that this was accomplished through outdoor instruction, ventilation, air purifiers and having all students and staff ages 5 and older wear masks. They did not experience their first positive COVID case until December.
“We stayed open so that we can serve young kids who were vulnerable who didn’t have another child care option and we also made it an opportunity for our Native youths to act as mentors and teach language and culture to those kids,” Parkin said.
One of the major challenges has been the stress and mental health struggles for the community that came with the pandemic and lockdown, as well as the stress with white supremacist elements that have been active and out in the open, he said.
Parkin said that paying off the downpayment on contract and adding two classrooms are the first steps that the board and the community has in-mind to build-up the school’s facilities. Some of his hopes for future improvements include adding a gym and cafeteria.
“[The expansion] is a turning point in our organization because this is our tenth anniversary and we’ve been at this site for seven,” Wiley said. “To me, it’s a sign of growth and stability and we built this foundation that is gonna continue to grow into the future and we’ll be able to serve Native students and folks who want to learn language throughout their total education.”
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Matthew Kincanon is a former Digital Content Producer with a journalism and political science degree from Gonzaga University. His journalism experience includes the Gonzaga Bulletin, The Spokesman-Review, Art Chowder magazine and SpokaneFāVS. He said he is excited to be a freelancer at SpokaneFāVS because, as a Spokane native, he wants to learn more about the various religious communities and cultures in his hometown.