In Charlottesville and Albemarle County, the average cost of preschool is more than rent. Over 250 at-risk & low-income families are unable to get their children into preschool every year due to these high costs, lack of available slots, and lack of full-day care to accommodate working parents. This means that more children are coming to Kindergarten not equipped to learn, widening the achievement gaps in Charlottesville and Albemarle County that are already two of the worst in Virginia.
Students of color in our city schools perform over two grades lower than their white peers and are suspended more than triple the rate of white students. In the County, these gaps are smaller, but students of color are still on average over two grades behind white students and suspended at more than double the rate of white peers. If our community wants to seriously address these gaps in our education system, we need to work to make sure that every child is given the chance to have a quality preschool education.
AFTERSCHOOL CARE IS PART OF THE SOLUTION
Making sure every child can attend preschool is going to take time and hard work to achieve. One important step we can take now is to make sure that there are afterschool care options for pre-K students available to low-income families. In addition to Head Start, both Charlottesville & Albemarle County have public preschool programs for low-income families. All these programs are high quality and significantly help the children who attend them succeed in their education. However, none of these programs presently provide after school options to accommodate working families. This presents a barrier for many working families to enroll their children in these programs, and would benefit families who may be able to enroll anyways by allowing them to have longer work hours and more income to pay for necessities like housing, food and healthcare.
WHAT WE’VE WON & WHAT WE WANT IN THE CITY AND COUNTY
At our Nehemiah Action in March 2021, Albemarle School Board members committed to support an
afterschool pilot program that began August 2021. This is an important step towards helping many
families in our community. However, we still have work to do in the city. City schools have told us that
when reconfiguration is completed they will be able to provide afterschool care to pre-K students, but
the earliest estimate of when that is available is 2026. Children that were born this year will already be
in Kindergarten by then. We need our school system to begin a pilot for pre-k afterschool care so that
families who need this help can get it.