School Board approves proposal for early childhood academy in Chester

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The Chesterfield County School Board approved the creation of a new Early Childhood Academy during its Nov. 10 business meeting. This unified pre-kindergarten center will serve students from 12 elementary schools in the eastern and southern portions of Chesterfield County. The School Board is investing approximately $3.9 million to retrofit the old Harrowgate Elementary School to house the new pre-kindergarten academy.

The new academy will serve pre-kindergarten students from Bellwood, Bensley, Beulah, Marguerite Christian, Curtis, Ecoff, Enon, Gates, Harrowgate, Salem Church, Elizabeth Scott and Wells elementary schools.

“We are excited to move forward with this project and begin retrofitting the old Harrowgate Elementary,” School Board Chair Debbie Bailey said. “Due to existing space constraints, there is an unmet need in our community for prekindergarten services. This new academy will help us better meet that need and serve additional pre-kindergarten students, while also freeing up operational space within existing schools for anticipated student enrollment growth.”

As part of their commitment to engaging constituents, the School Board is soliciting potential school names for consideration. Residents can choose to support the proposed name referenced during Board discussions (Chester Early Childhood Academy) or submit their own recommendations.

When considering potential school names, residents are asked to keep in mind:

  • In seeking to create an inclusive environment, the majority of new schools that have opened during the past 15 years have geographical connections (but not specific neighborhood names).
  • Absent extraordinary circumstances, School Board Policy 6160 states that schools cannot be named after living individuals and any person whom a school is named after must have been deceased for 10

All Chesterfield County residents are welcome to share a school name recommendation by visiting bit.ly/NameNewEarlyChildhoodAcademy and filling out the form by Nov. 20. The School Board will announce finalists at its Dec. 8 business meeting, with a vote on a formal name scheduled for the Board’s first meeting in January 2020.

Chesterfield County Public Schools currently serves 987 pre-kindergarten students, a 46 percent increase during the last five years. However, the school division does not currently have the space to serve all students who have been determined eligible to receive pre-kindergarten services. Approximately 480 more students could be served onsite in Head Start, Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI), Early Childhood Special Education and Title I classes.

The school division spends $8.6 million in state and grant funding, but annually declines millions of unspent state funding because of a lack of classroom space. By utilizing these unspent funds to consolidate pre-kindergarten classes to a central site in the southern part of the county, some schools could see trailers removed from their campuses resulting in a cost savings, as well as gaining available classrooms inside the physical school structure.

The school is projected to open in Fall 2021, with an open house for pre-kindergarten enrollment in April 2021.

The approved proposal is available online at https://go.boarddocs.com/vsba/chesterfield/Board.nsf/files/BUMTX6797308/$file/PRESENTATION%20-

%20Chester%20Early%20Childhood%20Academy.pdf. (Bensley Elementary was added to the proposal on Nov. 10.)


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