Skip to main content

Focus Grant 2022 & 2023
Establishing the Wood River Early Learning Collaborative

Investments in Equitable Early Learning Improve Long-term Outcomes in School and Life

As part of a multi-year effort, WRWF Members voted in 2022 and 2023 to support closing the education gap in the Wood River Valley by granting $100,000 for each year to the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children (IAEYC) to establish the Wood River Early Learning Collaborative (WRELC). The purpose of the Early Learning Collaborative is to create an early education community for all young children, especially those from underserved families.

Research shows the early years are a time of remarkable brain growth in children and lay the foundation for subsequent learning and development. Up-front investments in quality care and early education translate into direct returns for the State, our communities and society as a whole. The Idaho AEYC is the only organization in the state whose mission focuses on creating high-quality childcare and preschool programs that are accessible to all who need them.

“Up to 45 percent of the Blaine County student body is of Hispanic origin and 23 percent of those students are emergent English speakers, meaning they have very little English when they enter school,” said Louisa Moats, WRWF Focus Grant 2022 Co-Chair and nationally recognized early learning and education expert. “According to the State’s classification system, 69 percent of White students in Blaine County are proficient in reading between kindergarten and 3rd grade, but only 33 percent of the Hispanic/Latino Spanish-speaking students meet those standards. Not only is the difference in Blaine County striking, it is most likely preventable.”

Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children
Partners with WRWF to Establish the Wood River Valley Early Learning Collaborative

In 19 other communities, the Idaho AEYC has successfully mobilized and amplified local resources and talent to achieve transformational results in early children’s learning opportunities.

“Idaho AEYC respects and recognizes that each community’s early education needs and challenges are unique across the state,” said Beth Oppenheimer, Executive Director, Idaho AEYC. “The program development process—overseen by an Early Learning Advisory Council—involves diverse stakeholders who have a role in early childhood education and childcare. We are thrilled to partner with WRWF on taking the initiative to focus on this critical need in Blaine County.”

“The WRELC brings together a thoughtful and innovative team of local experts with a singular and shared focus on supporting early learning within Blaine County. This is the strongest opportunity we have to positively impact children before they enter kindergarten. A broad-based community effort that engages families in meaningful ways is critical to this effort.”~ Jim Foudy, Blaine County School District, Superintendent and Advisory Council Member

Local Expert hired to Lead WRELC

Kathryn Ivers Named WRELC Project Director

The Wood River Women’s Foundation and the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children recently announced Kathryn Ivers as the project director of the Wood River Early Learning Collaborative.

Continue Reading

Establishing The Early Learning Advisory Council

Advisory Council members were pulled from various key stakeholder groups including the Blaine County School District, childcare centers, teachers, families, health care professionals, businesses, nonprofits and trusted leaders in the Hispanic

WR Early Learning Advisory Council

  • Elise DeKlotz (Hailey Public Library)
  • Harry Griffith (SV Economic Development)
  • Jane Lopez (Hunger Coalition)
  • Janet Salvoni (Community School)
  • Jason Shearer (YMCA)
  • Jim Foudy (Blaine County School District)
  • Kristin Gearhart (Bellevue Public Library)
  • Laura Rose-Lewis (I Have A Dream Foundation)
  • Sarah Seppa (St. Luke’s Community Health)
  • Tricia Swartling (The Advocates)

Needs Assessment

The findings from the WRELC Needs Assessment will serve as the springboard for developing a comprehensive strategic plan aimed at continuing to create positive change in the early learning environment in Blaine County.

Read The Needs Assessment Report
Watch the Needs Assessment Report discussion

On February 6, 2023 at 4pm, Kathryn Ivers, project lead for WRELC, will present the Needs Assessment findings and moderate a discussion with WRELC members: Jim Foudy, Blaine County School District Superintendent, Laura Rose-Lewis, I Have A Dream Foundation Executive Director and Janet Salvoni, Community School Elementary School Head.

What’s next for 2023 and Beyond

Additional goals for year one of the Focus Grant include the completion of the strategic action plan based on the findings in the needs assessment. The strategic action plan will be published by June 2023. WRWF’s Focus Grant is the seed money for this long-term, large-scale community project we hope sparks equitable educational opportunities for all of Blaine County, especially our most vulnerable children, for generations to come.

About Idaho AEYC                                                                                                                                             

Since 2019, Idaho AEYC has been working with communities across Idaho to build a connective system of high-quality, early learning opportunities for Idaho’s youngest learners. Using a local collaborative model, leaders and stakeholders are coming together to improve access and affordability to quality care and early education to ensure our children are school-ready. 

Supporting families and children means doing our part. Across Idaho, families struggle to afford and/or access early learning opportunities. The Early Learning Collaboratives, locally created and community-led, aim to address this issue by supporting communities by creating a governing body to support the early learning system, focusing on the whole child, whole family, and whole community approach.

WRELC supporters from Idaho AEYC

  • Beth Oppenheimer, Executive Director
  • Martin Balben, Early Learning Collaborative Project Director
  • Heather Lee, School Readiness Project Director
Learn More About the Focus Grant