Alexandria Column: Budget Seeks To Improve Preschool

Alexandria Column: Budget Seeks To Improve Preschool

Commentary–School Board

Preschool is the critical piece to serving Alexandria City’s student population. For our English Language Learners, it can provide a setting that they start to learn to speak, read and write in English. For our Special Education community, it can provide an opportunity for identification and early services. For our Free and Reduced Lunch populations, it can provide the resources for growth and health of our most in need population. For our typical learners, it provides a diverse environment that familiarizes them with the school setting.

The superintendent, his staff and the School Board has presented a proposal to take the first step in accomplishing a small sliver of the vast early care goals of the Children, Youth and Families Collaborative Commission. We are proposing a way to advance instruction and services to the children and families that we currently serve in the elementary schools.

In preparing the FY2017 budget, the superintendent, staff and the School Board have considered a myriad of options that focus on raising student achievement, while also adding capacity to better support our current and projected enrollment. The considerations for the preschool have included investigating the need and costs of a building on the West End; expanding the half-day offering to full day; transportation for families without means to travel the city; working with partners to develop wrap-around services and, most importantly, looking at different instructional models.

Additionally, we have had, and continue to have regular meetings with current partners and community providers of Pre-K and daycare services. Public meetings and conversations have occurred in sessions with the following groups:

  • CYFCC full commission and subcommittees;

  • Early Childhood Education Work Group

  • Independent conversations between the superintendent and staff and our current partners

  • Campagna Center

  • Child and Family Networks Centers

  • Hopkins House

  • Alive

  • Private providers, such as Creative Playschool, Fairlington Preschool, Washington St UMC Preschool and others.

While ACPS has not engaged all members of the early education community in this specific effort, it is important for ACPS to have open dialogue with these groups and eventually develop shared goals. This spring Dr. Crawley is planning an event in which the public and providers can learn about the goals for preschool in ACPS.

Delivery of the Pre-K programs currently linked with ACPS will essentially remain operationally unchanged as we add capacity via leased centers (with the ultimate goal being to have centers across the city). Adding capacity through Pre-K centers will not negatively change the demographics of the students served; our classes currently are very diverse including students from all backgrounds. In fact, centralizing the location will increase the possibility of sharing more space with additional providers, therefore increasing the likelihood of enhanced diversity and shared services.

Dr. Crawley and his staff stand at the ready to discuss any and all aspects of the proposed ACPS 2017 Operating or Capital Improvement budgets and their ability to execute. We look forward to our continued positive teaming with council and we certainly continue to welcome questions and suggestions toward improving the services provided to Alexandria’s public school students and families.