Utah nonprofit launches online preschool program in R.I.

PROVIDENCE – A Utah-based nonprofit is launching a free online preschool program to up to 200 students in the state.

The program, Waterford Upstart, will expand offerings to up to 200 families in Rhode Island with funding from TED Conferences LLC.

Waterford, established in a partnership between the nonprofit and Utah legislature in 2009, describes itself as “at-home, early education solution for unserved and underserved families.”

The program provides caregivers with teaching materials and a coach, as well as a computer that families keep at the end of the program, and internet access if needed.

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Rhode Island Department of Education spokesperson David Folcarelli said that the office isn’t aware of similar online programs in the state, but that Rhode Island offers a free, in-person pre-school option for 4-year-olds in 18 communities on a lottery basis.

The state encourages eligible families to sign up for this lottery through its website, Folcarelli added. More than 2,300 students are currently enrolled in the state’s pre-schools.

RIDE has not worked with Waterford on the development or implementation of the program, Folcarelli said, but Waterford has worked with education departments in other states, including New Hampshire.

“During our pilot year, we listen to community leaders to figure out the needs of that state, then provide our data to state leaders to show how our program can fill early education gaps,” the company said in a statement provided by spokesperson Cristy Bruscoe.

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Voghel@PBN.com.