RVs converted into classrooms to address ‘preschool deserts’ in Dayton

Breanna Sharp reads to her preschoolers Tuesday July 6, 2021 at the On Purpose Academy just north of downtown Dayton. Preschool Promise, which has served 4-year-olds in Dayton and Montgomery County for years, will now offer their services to 3-year-olds in the city of Dayton. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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Breanna Sharp reads to her preschoolers Tuesday July 6, 2021 at the On Purpose Academy just north of downtown Dayton. Preschool Promise, which has served 4-year-olds in Dayton and Montgomery County for years, will now offer their services to 3-year-olds in the city of Dayton. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Editor’s note: This story is part of a Dayton Daily News investigative project titled Billions in COVID aid: Where it’s going. Go here for more on this project, including searchable databases showing how your community spent CARES Act funds and now much it is getting in American Rescue Plan funds.

The city of Dayton is using $150,000 in federal American Rescue Plan funds to support an innovative preschool-on-wheels approach to serve parts of the city without easy access to high-quality preschool.

The plan is to convert RVs into preschool classrooms that can each drive to two locations a day offering four hours of preschool at each location in “preschool deserts” around the city, according to Kimberly Jarvis, founder of the Pop Up Preschool project.

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Jarvis is executive director of the non-profit On Purpose Academy and Mentoring Center, which serves 60 children at their facility on Best Street in Dayton and runs a Pop Up Preschool in the DeSoto Bass community room.

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Jarvis says she has the teachers for the Pop Up Preschool on wheels, but needs funding to convert the RVs into classrooms that can serve nine to 12 kids at a time.

“My ultimate goal is that families that don’t have access to quality preschool education will get it,” she said. “We are trying to change generational poverty.”

The $150,000 city grant allocated to the project is part of $7.6 million Dayton is spending on supporting minority-owned business from the $138 million the city is receiving through the American Rescue Plan.

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Preschool promise is a partner in both the DeSoto Bass preschool and effort to set up mobile preschools.

Preschool Promise Executive Director Robyn Lightcap said addressing the shortage of high-quality preschools in some areas such as parts of East Dayton, Huber Heights and Trotwood is a major focus for them and they applaud Jarvis’ ingenuity.

“How do we offer some creative alternatives where children and families experience high-quality education but we are making it accessible in different ways?” she said.

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She said reliable transportation is an obstacle for some families and this would address that. Reaching low-income families is vitally important she said for breaking cycles of poverty, which research shows high-quality preschool can help with.

“We know if we can work with children when they are young and work with the families and help them then we can truly change the generational poverty trajectory,” Lightcap said.

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