Opportunity School helps young children, primarily from low-income families, succeed in school and in life.
The original Central Campus in downtown Amarillo, located in space donated by First Presbyterian Church, provides excellent part-day preschool and full-day learning to 80 three and four-year-olds, with bus transportation to low-income neighborhoods and space for 16 students to receive full-day care. A second campus opened in 2000 to address needs for working families in an underserved area in Northeast Amarillo (1525 North Grand, leased at no cost from Community of Grace United Methodist Church). This second location, known as the Grand Street Campus, serves 69 infants, toddlers and preschoolers in a full-day, year-round learning environment. Opportunity School’s strong reputation in the Texas Panhandle is attributed to several unique features.
- High Quality. Opportunity School’s Central Campus was among the first childcare centers in the nation to be accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) 20 years ago. That same high quality education is still carried on today at both of our campuses.
- Affordability. Families pay affordable fees based on a sliding scale of income. Opportunity School was established with the vision to make high quality early education available to low-income children.
- Strong parent education and involvement. Teachers visit students’ homes regularly and conduct monthly parent visit sessions to support parents in their role as their child’s foremost teacher.
- Low teacher/child ratios. Our ratio of teachers to children (1/4 for infants and toddlers, 1/8 for preschool) provides intensive one on one interaction and support for every child.
- Speech Therapy. Opportunity School employs a certified Speech Therapist to work with children individually on a daily basis to develop language and comprehension skills.
Who We Serve
- 90% of the families served are low-income, qualifying for free or reduced meals according to USDA guidelines.
- The average annual income for a family of four at Opportunity School is $21,100.
- 81% of households have sole or both parents working.
- The school’s ethnic mix is 44% African American, 42% Hispanic, 12% Anglo, 1% Asian and 1% Other.
Opportunity School has conducted 10 and 20-year follow-up studies through Amarillo public schools. The studies indicate that 73-74% of former students work at grade level or above, and 84% are considered by their teachers to be good citizens.
Longitudinal studies such as the High/Scope Perry Preschool Project (www.highscope.org), which serves as a model for Opportunity School, show that minority and low-income children gain long-lasting benefits from high quality early childhood education programs. Results for participants in the Perry Preschool Project include:
- Higher rates of high school completion (71% with early childhood programs vs. 54% without),
- Higher likelihood of earning $2,000 or more per month (29% vs. 7%),
- Lower incidence of welfare assistance as adults (59% vs. 80%),
- Lower incidence of out-of-wedlock births (57% vs. 83%), and
- Lower rates of repeated arrest (arrested five or more times) (7% vs. 35%).
Most recently, the Perry Preschool Project studied participants at age 40, and found that the return per dollar of investment had increased to $17. Additional research shown in the chart below indicates that programs serving any age group other than pre-kindergarten yield a much lower return. The following appears in “Effective Early Childhood Programs: Turning Knowledge Into Action” by Dr. Susan H. Landry:
Returns to Investment in Programs From Infancy to Young Adulthood
To achieve these results for children, programs must be high quality. Quality components identified through research include: 1) low child/teacher ratios; 2) highly skilled and trained teachers; 3) a curriculum and environment designed to support children’s cognitive, emotional, social and physical development; and 4) strong parent involvement and support. Each of these components is a vital part of what makes Opportunity School a continuing success in the Texas Panhandle.
See Programs for more information.