How to Start a Preschool in Washington State

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Prospective preschool owners work closely with the Washington Department of Early Learning.
Prospective preschool owners work closely with the Washington Department of Early Learning. (Image: little preschooler image by Renata Osinska from Fotolia.com)

Early childhood educators play an important role in children's development and can provide a rewarding career to those who seek to make a difference in children's lives. Starting a preschool in Washington state requires a state certification like most preschools in the United States. Early childhood educators who want to start a preschool in the state of Washington work closely with the Washington Department of Early Learning (DEL). DEL supports educators and child care providers in establishing and maintaining a successful preschool program.

Attend an orientation session provided by the Department of Early Learning. Locate a session by calling the local DEL office or check out their website, del.wa.gov. Learn how to get licensed and the requirements needed to start a preschool and locate the local resources available to early childhood educators. At the session, application packets are handed out to prospective preschool providers. Once the application is complete, a DEL licensor works with the prospective preschool provider to complete the license process. According to Washington State Department of Early Learning, DEL has 90 days to decide to offer the licensee a license to establish a preschool.

Get licensed with the DEL by passing a background check and schedule an inspection of the preschool facilities. By state law, all workers who work in childcare facilities must pass the background check run by DEL. Preschool providers must also have CPR, First Aid, and HIV/AIDS certification, according to the Washington Child Care Resources and Referral Network.

Take classes and obtain licenses if not certified. Prepare the preschool facility by making sure facilities pass the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). "DEL wants to be sure all licensed providers offer a safe, healthy place for children that follows state rules," according to the Washington State Department of Early Learning.

Hire staff that meets the minimum education requirement. A preschool educator must possess an associate or higher degree with the equivalent of 30 college quarter credits of early childhood education and a valid Washington state teaching certificate with an endorsement in early childhood education (pre-K - grade 3) or early childhood special education. Attend the State Training and Registry System (STARS) training provided by the Washington Association for the Education of Young Children (WAEYC). Program supervisors and members of staff are required to finish 20 hours of STARS training within six months of being licensed or hired.

Maintain the preschool according to DEL requirements after obtaining a license and approval. A DEL licensor will visit every 12 months to monitor the progress of the preschool. The licensor will make sure the records are up-to-date, check the facilities and watch the way staff interacts with the children. Every year, 10 hours of continuing education is required for preschool educators and staff.

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