The importance of early-childhood education has been reinforced by countless studies over the years, which can sometimes make the process of selecting a preschool a bit stressful. Soon, parents will get more decision-making help with the public rollout of Virginia's Star Quality system, a collaboration between the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF) and the state's Office of Early Childhood Development (OECD) that will rate the commonwealth's early care and education programs. OECD director Kathy Glazer expects the ratings to begin appearing at smartbeginnings.org in March or April. And, she notes, "[Richmond] is probably the locality with the most classrooms participating" in the voluntary program.
That's not surprising, given the Richmond region's wide range of preschool choices.
Richmond-region preschools affiliated with a particular faith range from the Islamic program at Iqra Academy of Virginia (6900 Carnation St., 330-4888, iqrava.org) to the Jewish-centered Aleph Bet Preschool (212 N. Gaskins Road, 740-2000, ext. 3, alephbet preschool.com).
Church-operated preschools can apply for an exemption from state licensing, but many are accredited by outside bodies; the Catholic St. Edward-Epiphany
School (10701 W. Huguenot Road, 272-2881, seeschool.com), for example, is accredited by the Virginia Association of Independent Schools and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Accreditation organizations specific to early-childhood education include the National Accreditation Commission for Early Care and Education Programs (NAC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). NAC-accredited church-run preschools in the area include the Bon View School for Early Childhood Education (1645 Buford Road, 320-7043, bonairumc.org) and Winfree Memorial Preschool (13617 Midlothian Turnpike, Midlothian, 798-1388, win freepreschool.org). For a complete list of NAC-accredited schools, visit naccp.org. NAEYC-accredited church-run preschools in the Richmond region include the Reveille Weekday School (4200 Cary Street Road, 359-4600, reveilleumc.org) and Victory Academy (30 LaBrook Drive, 745-1610, victoryfamilymin istry.com). Perhaps the best-known Jewish preschool in Richmond is the NAEYC-accredited program at the Weinstein JCC (5403 Monument Ave., 545-8615, weinsteinjcc.org/child hood/preschool.php). For a complete list of NAEYC-accredited schools, visit naeyc.org.
Just because a preschool has a religious component, this doesn't automatically mean children from other faiths are excluded. At the JCC, for example, about 45 percent of the students aren't Jewish.
The Montessori method is followed at a number of Richmond-area preschools, including Ashland Community Preschool (500 S. Center Street, Ashland, 798-0409, groups.yahoo.com/group/A-C-P/) and Tuckahoe Montessori School (4103 Monument Ave., 359-2754). Richmond Montessori School (499 N. Parham Road, 741-0040, richmont.org) is fully accredited by the American Montessori Society (AMS). Other AMS member schools with preschool programs in the region include West End Montessori (9307 Quioccasin Road, 523-7536, westendmontessori.com) and Three Oaks Montessori School (7076 Drinkard Way, Mechanicsville, 928-3625, threeoaksmontessori.com). For a complete list, visit amshq.org.
Reggio-inspired preschools following a philosophy of self-directed learning include Sabot at Stony Point (6818 W. Grace St., 288-4122, sabotatstonypoint.org), the JCC's preschool and NAEYC-accredited early-childhood education at VCU Health System Child Care and Family Services, which is available to VCU Health System employees.
The Richmond Waldorf School (1000 Westover Hills Boulevard, 377-8024, rich mondwaldorf.com) places great importance on social and emotional development. Amy Farley, the school's enrollment coordinator, notes that the school's early-childhood programs are completely non-academic.
Rainbow Station (747-5900, rainbow station.org) has four preschools in the Richmond area — each of which contains an infirmary staffed with a pediatric nurse.
Finally, with funding from the Virginia Preschool Initiative and other sources, public schools in the region offer free preschool, with slots awarded primarily based on need.