Virginia’s first lady Pam Northam stopped at Featherstone Elementary in Woodbridge last week to visit with children in one of Prince William County’s 44 publicly-funded preschool classes.
Northam talked to the children and read from Eric Carle’s “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” while they ate lunch at four round tables in teacher Emily Sasz’s classroom, one of several funded by the federal Virginia Preschool Initiative-Plus grant Prince William County schools received at the start of the 2015-16.
In part because of that grant, Prince William County has made progress in recent years in the number of children served by pre-K programs for low-income 4-year-olds and this year posted the highest number of preschool slots in the county’s history: more than 800.
Initially, the county got off to a slow start when it came to offering pre-K. The commonwealth launched its Virginia Preschool Initiative program in 1995 as a way to offer preschool to at-risk 4-year-olds not served by the federally-funded Head Start program. Prince William didn’t take advantage of the VPI program for more than a decade. The county opened its first VPI classrooms with just 36 students in 2006. That year, about 250 children were attending VPI and Head Start preschool classes across the county.