HCPS Preschool Programs May Expand
Some parents in eastern and western Henrico soon could have new preschool options for their children.
The Henrico County School Board is considering an expansion of the school system’s federal preschool programs, which currently serve 532 students but have a waiting list of almost the same number.
Expanding the programs – Head Start, the Title I Four Year Old Program and the Virginia Preschool Initiative – by eight classrooms at New Bridge School in Eastern Henrico would allow an additional 144 students from the attendance zones of 14 nearby schools to participate, Henrico County Public Schools Federal Programs Coordinator Gail Jones told the School Board earlier this month.
An additional expansion that would serve more students in western Henrico also is possible at the Children’s Museum of Richmond’s new Short Pump location at West Broad Village, she said. (That facility has classroom space, and CMoR officials are expected to present a partnership proposal to HCPS officials soon.)
“Research shows that there is tremendous value to students who are afforded a preschool education,” said Pam Bell, executive director of elementary education for HCPS.
Interest in the three preschool programs currently offered in 30 classrooms at 22 schools in Henrico has increased significantly in recent years. The programs served 159 students, with 144 on a waiting list, during the 2006-07 school year, but both numbers have more than tripled since.
Jones attributed the increase to the recession, which has made it more difficult for many parents to afford $200 a week or more for private preschool, and increased awareness of the programs, which are free to participants who qualify.
Participating families must meet certain selection standards; officials seek to assist the neediest families first, based on a list of criteria that includes household income, employment status of parents and medical insurance status, among others, Jones said.
Students who participate in the HCPS programs receive breakfast, lunch and a snack daily, as well as clothing when required, materials and a backpack. The average cost of a week’s tuition at private preschools in the region is $200, Jones said.
Officials at three of the 22 schools currently offering preschool have volunteered to devote more space to their programs if funding becomes available for expansion because they’ve been so successful, Jones said.
“Parents and principals are singing the praises and seeing the benefits in kindergarten because our students are more ready than they’ve ever been,” she said.
Though expansion of the programs would utilize primarily federal and state funds, the school system would be required by the Virginia Preschool Initiative to spend matching funds totaling $283,000. That money would pay the salaries of eight new teachers, eight instructional assistants, a clinic attendant, a cafeteria staff member, a school secretary and a family service worker.
Henrico’s current preschool waiting list is 515 students – more than 300 of whom are already qualified for Head Start, Jones said.
Children who attend “effective preschool” are more likely to be learning at grade level by the third grade; more likely to graduate high school and attend college; and less likely to be incarcerated or receive public assistance later in life than students who do not attend preschool, a RAND preschool study concluded in 2008.
Henrico Superintendent Pat Russo told the board that affording greater access to preschool for as many students as possible would be worth the extra expense.
“If we’re going to make some changes in student performances, especially getting through that primary levels, you really need to do it at the preschool level and prepare them,” he said, “so I think these are well invested dollars.”
The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.
Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.
The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.
Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.
The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.
An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Charlottesville's Bella’s Restaurant recently opened a location in Short Pump Village, at 11408 West Broad Street. The restaurant is owned by Valeria Biesnti, a native of Rome who arrived in the U.S. at age 21 and later became a U.S. citizen. With her restaurants, Bisenti has sought to create an ambiance that welcomes diners in a casual setting, like her favorites from her hometown. > Read more.
A Henrico native will appear on the third episode of the Travel Channel's new grilling competition series “American Grilled.”
The episode, filmed in Charlottesville, will premier July 16 at 9 p.m. and feature Glen Allen-native Rex Holmes, a patent lawyer who operates http://SavoryReviews.com a blo,g centered around tasty recipes and BBQ.
The show features hardcore grilling enthusiasts from across the country going head-to-head for a chance to compete for a $10,000 cash prize and bragging rights when they are crowned the ultimate “grill master.” > Read more.
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