Henrico County VA
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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.”


Community

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


There’s no excuse for kids and families to not get out of the house this weekend! The Armour House and Gardens has an “Egg-celent Egg-venture” planned and Reynolds Community College will host the Reynolds Family Palooza. If you’re looking to give back to your community, Dorey Park will host Walk Like MADD and coordinators2inc will present the annual Kids Walk for Kids. And a special event for children with special needs will be on Sunday – the Caring Bunny will be at Virginia Center Commons. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

A new meaning for fried chicken

Is it heresy to say – in this bastion-of-tradition capital of the Old South – that it's time for Southern fried chicken to take a step back and make way for a new fried chicken king?

Count me among the new believers bowing to Bonchon Chicken's delectable double-fried bliss. Hand-brushed with signature garlic soy or hot sauce, flash-fried once and then again, the decadent drums and wings take "crisp" to a new level. If you're eating with a crowd and everyone bites in at once, be warned: you might need ear plugs to handle the din. > Read more.

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