Around Fairfax County, families are enrolling for 2013-2014 kindergarten. Many of the children going to kindergarten in the fall are in preschool, learning how to navigate a more structured day and socialize with other children and teachers.
But for hundreds of children — most of them living in the county's Mount Vernon area — kindergarten will be their first introduction to a classroom.
In Fairfax County, the Head Start program, funded by a mix of federal, state and local dollars, helps approximately 1,500 children, whose families meet certain income guidelines, prepare for kindergarten.
Because there isn't enough funding for Fairfax County's Head Start program, approximately 828 children in the county are on a waiting list to enter the Head Start program, according to Amy Carlini, director of communications, Fairfax County Department of Family Services.
Of those 828, 690 or 83 percent, live near the county's Richmond Highway corridor in Fairfax County, according to statistics from the county.
If the Richmond Highway area does see funding anytime soon, there doesn't seem to be a consensus about where new classrooms will be located. A letter (see PDF) from the New Gum Springs Civic Association president earlier this spring noted that the group was not consulted when county officials talked about adding classrooms to its facilities.
"The Gum Springs community was totally excluded from all discussions, communications and information regarding the Head Start proposal that includes a retrofit of the Gum Springs Community Center," the letter reads.
Supervisor Gerry Hyland acknowledged the group's frustration in a letter to their president. (See PDF letter attached.)
"If in the future resources become available to allow for expansion of the Head Start program, it is my expectation that county staff work in partnership with the Gum Springs community on ways in which the expansion can be accommodated," Hyland's letter reads.
According to Voices for Virginia's Children, 9 percent of the children or 23,575 in Fairfax County are living in poverty. The data shows 70,184 in the county participating in the SNAP food program.
Another part of the county hard hit is in and around the Bailey's Crossroads area. In that area, Higher Horizons Day Care Center serves 300 low-income children and families. The center received funding in 2009 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Students enrolled in the Richmond Highway area's elementary schools see the highest percentage, among Fairfax County students, who are eligible for free and reduced lunches, according to a report this year from Virginia's Department of Education:
- Hybla Valley Elementary: 85 percent
- Mount Vernon Woods: 79 percent
- Mount Eagle Elementary: 76 percent
- Groveton: 67 percent
Read these previous articles on Patch about the Head Start program:
- Wait Continues for Head Start Program
- A Look Inside a Head Start Classroom
- Supervisors Want Action on Head Start Wait List