The first free preschool funded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ $2 billion Bezos Day One Fund will open on Oct. 19 in Des Moines, Wash., which is about 16 miles south of Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle.
Bezos announced the opening date with a classroom photo on Instagram. Known as the Bezos Academy, he said it will be the first of many for underserved children. The preschool will offer year-round programming five days a week for children ages 3 to 5. Admission will prioritize low-income families, according to the Bezos Day One Fund. It was not clear how many schools the Fund plans to open or where else they will be located.
The Fund said it considers a “wide range of data” when selecting communities for preschools, including income levels, participation in free and reduced-cost meal programs and gaps in access to childcare.
“[We use] the same set of principles that have driven Amazon,” the Fund says in an explainer on its website. “Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession. The child will be the customer. ‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.’ And lighting that fire early is a giant leg up for any child.”
On Instagram, Bezos thanked Wesley Homes for providing the facility for the first Bezos Academy. Wesley is a faith-based organization that operates retirement facilities, including one in Des Moines which has previously run a Montessori education program for pre-kindergartners in partnership with Highline Public Schools, a local school district that serves 18,000 students in grades K-12.
“Residents are volunteering to regularly interact with the students and foster intergenerational collaborative learning for the children,” Wesley notes on its website. “Wesley Homes … is proud to be a part of this unique program where residents and families in the local communities can engage in a truly meaningful way.”
Similarly, the Bezos Academy says its network of preschools will be “Montessori-inspired.”
According to the American Montessori Society, a Montessori education includes specially trained teachers, classrooms with three-year age spans, a hands-on approach to learning, child-direct work and uninterrupted work periods. The Association Montessori Internationale said Bezos announced his intent to create this network of preschools in September 2018.Information about the Bezos Academy is sparse otherwise.
In addition to preschools in low-income communities, the Bezos Day One Fund is focused on funding nonprofits focused on homelessness.