Albemarle expanding Bright Stars pre-K program

Next school year, Cale Elementary School will have an additional Bright Stars classroom.

Administered jointly by Albemarle County’s school division and social services department, Bright Stars is a preschool program that provides comprehensive social services for 4-year-olds and their families until the children complete fifth grade.

“It was decided with the goal of serving as many kids as possible,” said Ann McAndrew, the Bright Stars coordinator. “Cale was selected because when looking at current and past applications, the numbers indicated that we could consistently fill another classroom there.”

The additional class — which will serve 18 students — will bring the total number of Bright Stars rooms in Albemarle to 11. Last year, the effort served about 160 students in 10 classrooms at eight schools, though some of those children are funded through Title I and Head Start.

In March, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville estimated the number of children in the Southwood Mobile Home Park, which is in the Cale district, who would be eligible for pre-K totaled about 50. However, a more recent canvassing saw that number fall to about 20.

“While the number of 4-year-olds has changed, the need is no less urgent, so we are just as deeply committed to trying to facilitate early childhood education curriculum within Southwood,” said Ryan Jacoby, Habitat’s chief operating officer.

Habitat plans to redevelop Southwood, which is home to about 1,500 people, 600 of whom are children.

“From our perspective, there are 100 youth between newborn and 4 years old who either are in need of early childhood education and/or high-quality child care,” Jacoby said, “but there are about 45 rising 3- and 4-year-olds who, to the best of our knowledge, are currently receiving little to no early childhood education, and are falling further behind their peers.”

To prevent that, Jacoby said Habitat will continue to try to connect Southwood families with early childhood education providers.

“By the start of the upcoming academic year, we’re committed to having some of those numbers served more significantly than they have been in the past,” he said.

“Everyone is in agreement that this is a need,” Jacoby said, “and we also know that this is one of the deepest values of people in Southwood.”

McAndrew said the social services department is still accepting applications, and that families will be notified of admission status in the next couple of weeks.

Interested parties can download an application from either the social services or school division website or can pick one up at the child’s home elementary school. Completed applications should be delivered to the Bright Stars family support worker at the child’s home elementary school.