Columns Opinion Your Views — 07 August 2014
Filling in the Blanks: Pre-K students will get 
a boost with the opening of 
the new Jefferson-Houston

By Karen Graf
(Photo/Erich Wagner)

School board chairwoman Karen Graf

A positive preschool experience is a critical component for the success of our city’s youngest residents.
The top priorities for the Alexandria City School Board are to ensure that our students achieve at high levels and are well-rounded critical thinkers with a passion for learning. It has been thoroughly researched and documented that pre-kindergarten experiences are among the most cost-effective means to improve the academic performance of students, especially among those whose families struggle financially. The students served by The Campagna Center, for example, are our future students, and our student-centered decisions demand that we give our budding scholars a head start whenever possible.
The Campagna Center has worked in partnership with the city school district for nearly 50 years and will continue to help families succeed through our Head Start program. As staff at the center will confirm, for the past 12 to 18 months, school officials have worked together with them and city officials to address space-related matters at the new Jefferson-Houston school. Throughout the public process associated with building the new school, classrooms for Head Start children always were conveyed as a necessary component.
The role of the school board is to adopt policy for the daily operation of schools and to see that the district’s rules are properly explained, observed and enforced. During the Jefferson-Houston construction project, there was discussion — through informational updates to the past and present school boards — of moving the Head Start program to another location. In the end, the existing classroom space for the district’s early childhood programs and the four Head Start classrooms were incorporated into the new building. Good planning and cooperation among city and schools staff — and school partners — led to retaining pre-K options for the community.
We are fortunate that neither the city council nor the school board needed to put this on their business agendas because of the work of the superintendent, city manager and their respective staffs. I am pleased that the school board is working closely with the mayor and city council to make additional — and stronger — pre-K offerings in the future for our city.
This district is about to open its first new school building since 2007, one that will provide improved learning spaces for our students. The pre-K through eighth grade Jefferson-Houston will provide a foundation for teaching our children and will be embraced as a new opportunity for our city. Local residents, particularly those in the Jefferson-Houston community, can celebrate the hope and promise that it represents and work together to make good on those promises to the children of Alexandria.
The writer is the chairwoman of the Alexandria School Board.

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