There was a meeting tonight about the future of the Virginia Preschool Initiative Program (VPI) in Richmond Public Schools. Superintendent of schools, Yvonne Brandon will make a recommendation at Monday’s school board meeting to consolidate the VPI programs of Fox, Mary Munford, Cary, Maymont and Clark Springs Elementary into one school to be housed at Maymont Elementary. Then the students currently at Maymont will be combined with the students at Clark Springs and be housed in that building.
The new preschool center would house 10 VPI classes along with classes from the Head Start program and Preschool Development Center.
The point then is to cut down on rental of buildings, consolidate resources, and gain kindergarten students by opening up room in those schools with waiting lists. Dr. Brandon explained that the estimated budget savings in rent is $115,000. And, an estimated $400,000 is thought to be gained by adding students.
While this sounds all well and good, many parents at the meeting tonight were not happy. Parents, in my opinion, were most concerned about the manner in which this was handled. Parents and VPI teachers were the last to know. It seemed as if the decision was made before parents were asked their thoughts and so tonight felt a bit like an afterthought.
Other concerns parents have relate to transportation of students to this new school from their zone school. Many parents have children already enrolled in their zone school and were looking forward to a year where after school care and transportation became a little bit easier.
Another concern, especially of Fox parents, is the resources that will be available to the kids at this new preschool center. Currently at Fox, VPI students are offered PE, music, art, and Spanish as “extras”. They have access to the library, programs at the school, and an environment with older children to look up to.
Dr. Brandon did have answers for these concerns and expressed that the answers she did not have she would work on. The new center would have PE, music, and art – they would look into the Spanish option. (By the way, these “extras” are not even offered at Mary Munford or the other programs, only at Fox.) The school would have a nurse for part of the day (this was a concern to a parent of a child with allergies in need of carrying an epi pen with him at all times). Dr. Brandon also explained that kids can look up to their peers the next year, in kindergarten. The issues of before and after school care and transportation would also be looked into. They will also take into consideration keeping children and teachers from the same zone together for continuity’s sake.
Some parents and teachers were definitely excited and on board – looking forward to the new program as a way to focus on early childhood education and give preschoolers the best experience possible.
Ending statements were given by the sole member of the school board present, Maurice Henderson, who began by apologizing for the short notice. Mr. Henderson then said that he really hoped everyone could get together on this – when they (meaning superintendent and school board) put their shoulders to the plow, he hoped that the parents would put their shoulders to the plow with him.
What do you think? Will this proposal be a good solution for budget issues and help preschoolers have a better education – or will it hinder an already great program and compel those parents who can afford it to send their kids to private preschools?
This is the full proposal which will be presented Monday night and then voted on June 7th:
Richmond Public Schools administration is recommending the transition of Maymont
Elementary School to a regional preschool center. The center will be a premiere preschool
learning center of excellence for students ages two through five and will foster inclusive
practices for general education and exceptional education students. This early academic, social,
and emotional intervention for preschoolers will decrease the number of students who may be
identified for special education services.
Utilizing the Maymont building as a premiere preschool center supports sound fiscal
management and accommodates increased preschool and kindergarten student enrollment.
Preschool students from Cary, Munford, Fox, Clark Springs, and Maymont will attend the center.
Preschool students from the Preschool Development Center will attend school at the Regional
Preschool Center and at Martin Luther King. This will eliminate the need for Richmond Public
Schools to pay rent for the Preschool Development Center and the Westminster church site
which currently houses one Mary Munford Virginia Preschool Initiative classroom.
Additionally, this recommendation will allow for added kindergarten classes resulting in
additional state per pupil funding.
Kindergarten through fifth grade students from Maymont will merge into Clark Springs; thus
allowing Clark Springs to operate at capacity. The enrollment at Maymont has been below 200
or at 200 for a number of years. The building’s capacity is 360. Clark Springs Elementary, also
located in the West End, is in close proximity to Maymont. The school administration is
committed to this transitioning process without a reduction in force. The Maymont staff will
move to Clark Springs to support the increased enrollment.
Richmond Public Schools administration has developed a comprehensive time line and
implementation plan to ensure an effective and efficient transition. The plan is attached for your
Decrease the amount budgeted for rental / lease spaces
Increase the number of students in kindergarten thereby increasing state per pupil
Recommendation #1 -The administration of Richmond Public Schools is recommending that
Maymont Elementary School become a regional preschool site for Richmond Public Schools.
Recommendation #2 – The administration of Richmond Public Schools is recommending that the
School Board convene a Public Hearing at Maymont Elementary regarding the merger into Clark