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

Celebrating 106 years

Former Sandston resident Mildred Taylor celebrated her 106th birthday Aug. 9. Taylor, who now lives in Powhatan, is still a member of Sandston Baptist Church. She was visited the day after her birthday by several members of the church, who played for her a recording of the entire church membership singing happy birthday to her during worship. > Read more.

YMCA breaks ground for aquatic center

YMCA officials gathered last week to break ground on the new Tommy J. West Aquatic Center at the Shady Grove Family YMCA on Nuckols Road. The center, which will featured 7,600 square feet of competitive and recreational space, including water slides, play areas for children and warmer water for those with physical limitations, is the fourth phase of a $4 million expansion at the facility. West was president and CEO of Capital Interior Contractors and a founding member of the Central Virginia Region of the Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. > Read more.

Rotary donates to ‘Bright Beginnings’

The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Enjoy the final days of summer with comedian Guy Torry, the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour or mystery writer Mary Miley Theobald at Twin Hickory Library. Another great way to welcome the beginning of fall is to check out the UR Spider Football season opener with man’s best friend. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Bottoms up

Short Pump brewery offers more than just beer
I am still (happily) thinking about my entire experience at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery last week. Knowing nothing about this new brewery out of Denver, I was leery of brew-pub in the heart of Short Pump Town Center – this is not what I’d usually think of as a perfect fit, and yet, it was.

The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.

As I walked up to the back of the mall near the comedy club, I was taken aback by what I saw: at the top of the stairs was an overflowing restaurant with outdoor seating, large umbrellas and dangling outdoor lights. > Read more.

Cultural Arts Center announces 2014 fall class schedule

The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is now registering participants for its fall 2014 schedule of classes.

The center will offer more than 100 classes for children and adults, covering topicssuch as culinary arts, fiber arts, visual and performance arts and more. Instruction is structured to appeal to a wide range of abilities, from beginners to experts of all ages. Class sizes are kept small to ensure maximum benefit for participants with generally no more than 15 students. > Read more.

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