Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is opening a free preschool for low-income families in Tacoma

A tuition-free Bezos Academy preschool will open in Tacoma this fall, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced Friday on social media.

The preschool will serve roughly 80 students across four classrooms. The classrooms will be located in the primary school building on the McCarver Elementary campus.

“I’m a big believer in a Montessori-style education, and it’s what inspires our curriculum at Bezos Academy,” Bezos wrote on Instagram. “Our goal is to unlock the potential in kids to become creative leaders, original thinkers, and lifelong learners — regardless of their zip code or socioeconomic background.”

Bezos Academy is a nonprofit organization aiming to create a network of tuition-free Montessori-inspired preschools in under-served communities. The Montessori method of teaching encourages children to follow their interests through hands-on activities and self-directed learning. Tacoma Public Schools has two Montessori schools, Geiger and Bryant.

Bezos first announced his intention to build a network of preschools in November 2018, according to Forbes, using a $2 billion Bezos Day One fund. The first preschool opened in Des Moines in September.

According to the Bezos Academy website, each classroom has a maximum of 20 students and a classroom ratio of at least one staff member for every 10 students. The preschool serves ages 3-5 year-round, five days a week.

Application information will be made available at bezosacademy.org.

To be eligible to apply, a family’s yearly household income must be less than 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. For a family of four, that’s $104,800.

Bezos Academy also reserves half of the seats in each classroom for students coming from families that are below 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. For a family of four, that’s $65,500.

Tacoma Public Schools signed a 10-year agreement with Bezos Academy in January. Bezos Academy agrees to pay $29,943 in rent per year of the agreement, subtracting any capital improvements made to the building throughout the term of the agreement. The agreement also requires students to be from within the Tacoma school district.

“We deeply appreciate and applaud this investment in the children of Tacoma, especially since it will expand access to preschool for families who otherwise couldn’t afford it,” said Superintendent Carla Santorno said in a statement.

Bezos announced earlier this month that he plans to step down as Amazon CEO later this year.

This story was originally published in The News Tribune.