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How to Open a Preschool in Oregon

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The state of Oregon defines the preschool time period as extending from 36 months (age 3) until the time a child enters the first year of school (age 5 or 6). During this stage, many children attend formal preschool programs, where they learn fundamentals such as letters, numbers, shapes and colors, as well as valuable social skills. Because preschools have to meet specific educational requirements and be a healthy, safe, environment for children, Oregon has very strict and specific guidelines for opening and operating such a facility.

Contact the state of Oregon's Child Care Division (CCD) before beginning the application process. The CCD can walk you through the complex certification process and help you contact the necessary offices and inspectors you'll need to deal with.

Meet the requirements to serve as a director of the center. If you will not be working in the center yourself, hire a director that meets Oregon requirements. A director must have at least one year of experience supervising adults plus experience in child development.

Visit your local zoning board to determine where you can open your preschool. Your city or town may have ordinances restricting where such a facility can be located.

Locate or build an appropriate building or commercial space. Oregon law requires a minimum of 35 square feet of activity space per preschool child, and 50 square feet of space for school-age children. Before signing contracts for the space, meet with the local building inspector to confirm that the building meets Oregon building codes and preschool requirements. Those requirements include adequate water and sanitation.

Create a floor plan indicating the length and width of the space, as well as the placement of all toilets, sinks and diaper-changing facilities. Submit a copy of the floor plan with your license application; the fire marshal, building department and environmental specialist in your city or town must also receive a copy.

Develop an operations plan for the preschool. At the minimum, you need to outline a curriculum and activity schedule, food service plan, policies and procedure and management and financial plan.

Schedule inspections. The CCD office can help you set the necessary appointments with the building and zoning departments, fire marshal and health department. Include a copy of the inspection report with your application.

Hire staff. Oregon law requires that you have a head teacher for each program – infant, preschool and school-age – that you will be offering. Head teachers must be at least 21 years old; staff teachers must be at least 18. All teachers have to meet the educational and training requirements set by the state.

Submit the required documents for criminal history background checks on all preschool employees. The CCD will conduct the checks, and enroll eligible employees into the Oregon Child Care Criminal History Registry. Anyone not approved and listed in the Registry cannot work in the preschool.

Submit the application for certification to the Child Care Division with the necessary fees and documentation, at least 45 days before you plan to open the preschool. The Child Care Division will conduct a final inspection before issuing your certificate. Your initial certification is valid for only one year.


An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer and editor, specializing in careers, business, education, and lifestyle topics. The author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), which covers everything from career and financial advice to furnishing your first apartment, her work has also appeared in Young Money, Lewiston Auburn Magazine, USA Today, and a variety of online outlets. She's also been quoted as a career expert in many newspapers and magazines, including Cosmopolitan and Parade. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.