The founders of the new Pacific Northwest Early Learning Center came together under less than ideal circumstances in September 2021, but with a dream to provide community-focused child care and a $900,000 state Department of Commerce grant under their belt, they are on track to open their new childcare facility on Sept. 1, 2022.
“The Pacific Northwest Early Learning Center is a child care center that is based on Christian values, but we are community involved. And that's our main focus, is our families and the community,” said Jessica King, a member of the board of directors for the Pacific Northwest Early Learning Center.
“And when we say the community, it engulfs educating staff and parents about children's needs, and where they're going with that, and then having the strong ties to work with other community resources like Headstart, ECAP (and) the Centralia School District on outreach and intertwining so that when our kids transition into those different stages of their development, that they are supported on both sides,” King said.
King strives to form the kind of close parent/educator relationships she formed with Early Learning Center Director Bailey Williams back when Williams was the parent and King was the director of Cooks Hill Community Child Care Center.
“When you're in charge of caring for another one's family, you build this bond of, ‘You're entrusting me with your child.’ And we're going to help that family in any way, shape or form. So even if that's, you know, (being) an emotional resource or being able to come in and talk about what's going on with your child or your day to day basis, that was my job as a director,” said King, adding, “That's kind of what we want with our parents is that we're here for them. We're just not there as a business, but we purposely care for their family.”
Williams approached King with the idea for the Pacific Northwest Early Learning Center after King was let go from her position at Cooks Hill in September 2021.
King’s forced departure caused some parents, including Williams, to pull their children from Cooks Hill and caused some staff to walk out in protest.
One of those staff members was now-former Cooks Hill assistant director Jhallyn Molina, who ended up joining King and Williams in their venture to create the Pacific Northwest Early Learning Center.
“We then went on this venture of trying to find a building that would be able to sustain growth over a long term,” King said.
They set their sights on Dell’s Children Center, located at 1212 North Pearl St. in Centralia.
“That was the building that we were going toward because we already had a relationship with the owner and communicated with her,” King said.
They submitted an application for a Early Learning Facilities (ELF) Capital Facilities Competitive grant in November and were awarded $900,000 in April.
King and Williams credit support from state Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, on the Senate floor as one of the reasons why they were awarded the grant.
“He is a phone call away for us and has always been kind of a great cheerleader on our end,” King said.
The grant will cover the cost of purchasing Dell’s Children Center from its current owner, a deal that is scheduled to close on Aug. 31.
The Pacific Northwest Early Learning Center is scheduled to open for the 2022-2023 school year the next day, on Sept. 1.
“We’re going to be hitting the ground running,” Williams said.
Also opening Sept. 1 is the center’s nursery house, which will provide care for kids as young as 6 months.
“Which is great because there’s not a whole lot of nursery care providers,” King said. “That’s a huge need that we know. And parents get really frustrated, not all on finding care, but quality care. And so that was that was our number one priority was getting that nursery back up and running.”
Most of the Early Learning Center’s spots have been filled, but the facility is accepting kids on a waiting list.
“We had great feedback and parents that are ready to have their kids start the center,” King said.
For more information or to place a child on the waiting list, visit https://www.pnwearlylearningcenter.org/.