The Palm Beach Post | By Kendall Little | February 22, 2022
On Feb. 1, Florida Atlantic University officials announced that the Bezos Academy, a tuition-free preschool, would be opening its newest location on their Boca Raton campus this fall.
“There is a substantial population of children of need meeting the guidelines for enrollment in Boca Raton, Delray, and Deerfield Beach,” said Joshua Glanzer, associate vice president for media relations at FAU.
Families can be earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level and still be eligible to enroll in the preschool. According to Health and Human Services, the poverty level is $27,750 for a family of four, which means a four-person family can bring in $106,000 and still be eligible for the academy.
“While Palm Beach County has some innovative programs and opportunities for low-income children, the high cost of tuition and registration remain the largest financial obstacles that keep families from enrolling children in early education,” said Daron Morse, director of youth education programs at Adopt-A-Family of Palm Beaches.
Bezos, who went to high school in Miami, recently gave $5 million to Adopt-A-Family of the Palm Beaches, the largest award in the nonprofit’s 38-year history.
Bezos founded the Bezos Academy to provide children with an early education that would not normally be able to obtain it.
“Our goal is to help address the preschool access gap for lower-income families,” said Katie Ford, head of communications for the Bezos Academy. “Our research points to a significant number of preschool-aged children who are either the children of FAU students and staff or who live in the vicinity of the campus who do not currently have the opportunity to attend affordable preschool.”
According to Private School Review, the average cost of private preschool in Palm Beach County is $11,783. The Bezos Academy offers a year-round education for free, including supplies and food.
“Once children are enrolled in a program, there are other costs that may prevent the family from maintaining enrollment, such as the cost of transportation if the family does not have a car, the cost of packing meals for the child, and in some programs, uniforms, reenrollment, and supply fees,” Morse said. “These costs can seem daunting to families who are already struggling to meet their basic needs.”
While the Bezos Academy takes care of in-school costs, they do not provide transportation to and from the preschool. However, the Palm Tran bus makes two stops at FAU: one that is a six-minute walk to the preschool and one that is an 11-minute walk.
The preschool will open this year in the building where the Karen Slattery Educational Research Center for Child Development once resided. It closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and never reopened.
According to Data USA, 19.2% of Palm Beach County residents speak Spanish and 6.5% speak Haitian Creole. Ford said that the Bezos Academy is equipped to take on the language barrier some students may face.
“We welcome English-language learners in our schools. Our program is taught in English, and we provide support in and out of the classroom – including translation for communication with families – to make sure the experience is positive for everyone,” Ford said.
Boca Raton is one of 20 Bezos Academies across the country. There are three in the Orlando area.