ESD 123 ECEAP – Partnering for Strong Families

August 12, 2020
food collected during food drive

Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) staff in Educational Service District (ESD) 123 provided critical support to continue serving the children and families of Walla Walla, Prescott, Finley, Pasco and Touchet school districts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

ECEAP and the school districts built powerful partnerships with restaurants, food banks, churches and non-profits to build a framework for supporting families.

In areas experiencing exceptional food insecurity, a food drive collected 31 boxes of nonperishables in just three hours. ECEAP family support staff and teachers then delivered the food to the ECEAP families in these communities. Food drives like this are critical to families in rural areas such as Touchet and Prescott.

Walla Walla Public Schools, with the critical collaboration of ECEAP staff, fed more than 1,000 students at 11 satellite spots across their community daily, in addition to providing care to the children of more than 100 first responders.

“[We] quickly became short-staffed as a district to maintain these crucial services, having to place many of our [elder] and medically fragile staff on leave. Our ECEAP staff stepped up, willing to take their place to ensure services continue for students and families. We surely couldn't do it without their support.”

-Wade Smith, Ed.D., Superintendent Walla Walla Public Schools

Walla Walla family support staff contacted each ECEAP family weekly, connecting them with resources and supporting them in educating their children. Every family received weekly learning resources that aligned with play-based learning, virtual circle times and read-alongs with their classes. Modified services such as these demonstrate how important ECEAP is to communities in Washington State.

“The partnerships being built, the community support and the value that the teaching staff and family support staff are providing to parents has been exciting to witness…If ever there was evidence that the work we do has value, it is now.”

-Lisa Brouwer-Thompson, ECEAP Administrator ESD 123

In College Place, a first-year ECEAP program, staff worked with their preschool program counterparts to provide as many distance learning options as possible for all of their students. This included:

  • Regular, weekly contact with all ECEAP and developmental preschool students by their lead ECEAP teacher.
  • Weekly packets of learning activities that students and families can access at home, available for pick-up.
  • Breakfast and lunch offered for pick-up for all preschool through 12th-grade students.
  • Food deliveries to preschool families who do not have access to transportation and/or have greater needs than can be supported through the regular meal program.
  • A distance learning plan for preschool (ECEAP and developmental preschool) that took them through the end of the school year.

The ECEAP program in Touchet was instrumental during the COVID-19 school closures. The ECEAP staff provided seamless, developmentally-appropriate and timely information to help families plan and prepare throughout the pandemic. The lead teacher worked diligently with families, making sure they stayed informed and had what they needed. The lead teacher also assisted the foodservice program in preparing and handing out grab-and-go bags for breakfast and lunch. 

In addition to the broad distribution of food, learning activities and other resources, ECEAP staff kept a laser focus on the specific needs of families through weekly family support contact. Individual families received support for food programs, utility programs, Child Care Aware, diapers and hygiene needs, internet service, immigration assistance and unemployment assistance. For these and many other efforts, community leaders praise ECEAP’s commitment to children and families.  

“I would like to take this opportunity to express to you the importance of the ECEAP to families in the Prescott community. ECEAP provides essentials services to our young families living in poverty. The ECEAP staff has gone to great lengths to ensure that our families have continued to get meals and other services. The ECEAP staff is serving as a lifeline for these families and ensuring they stayed connected to the services they need.”

-Brett Cox, Superintendent Prescott School District