Filling in the Blanks with Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D.: A collective approach to early education

Filling in the Blanks with Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D.: A collective approach to early education
Dr. Gregory Hutchings Ed.D. (Photo Credit: Susan Hale Thomas/ACPS)

The collective community efforts between families, community organizations, the City of Alexandria and Alexandria City Public Schools gives our community promise for ensuring our young people are entering the world destined for success. Raising and educating our children to become happy, healthy and informed citizens takes a concerted effort from all of us. I am proud to call Alexandria my home, as we strive to foster natural curiosity and maximize opportunities for each child to reach their full potential.  

Educational development does not start at age five when a student enters Kindergarten. Neuroscience research studies over the years have found that the vast majority of a child’s brain is developed in the first five years of life.

At ACPS, we know it is important for all children to expand their cognitive abilities, social-emotional learning, language ability and developmental tasks before they enter kindergarten. Children who have access to early childhood education are more prepared and confident. Alexandria’s collaborative partnerships in early childhood education provide accessible and equitable paths for every child’s growth and development. 

We invite the community to join us in celebrating the annual Week of the Young Child, April 10 to 16, sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. This week focuses on early learning initiatives, young children, their teachers and families. I am excited to share the outstanding early childhood initiatives and partnerships that are the foundation for every child to benefit from a healthy, safe and inspirational place to grow, create and learn.   

ACPS is a proud member of Smart Beginnings Alexandria, a partnership of individuals and organizations in Alexandria that work together to provide comprehensive support, care and education for all young children and their families. SBA is committed to promoting system collaboration and alignment, equitable access to high-quality programming, comprehensive service provision, data-driven decision making and a laser focus on achieving universal school readiness. 

SBA brings public and private leaders together to establish priorities for Alexandria’s youngest children and connect families to early childhood resources, particularly ensuring access to high-quality early learning experiences through coordinated enrollment efforts. 

ACPS, The Campagna Center, The Child and Family Network Centers, Creative Play Schools and the Department of Community and Human Services have developed a common screening form that informs eligibility and directs families to programs and services best suited to meet their needs. Through our collective efforts, we currently have more than 900 students receiving a high-quality education in Virginia Preschool Initiative, Head Start, Early Head Start and Early Childhood Special Education classes.

Additionally, SBA has recently launched its first community-wide campaign, The Basics™. The Basics are five science-based parenting and caregiving principles that encompass much of what experts find is essential for children from birth to age three. They offer caregivers simple, fun and free ways to promote healthy development within the natural course of everyday activities and build upon the necessary skills to ensure school readiness. 

I encourage all Alexandria residents to reach out to a neighbor who might benefit from these services. ACPS PreK registration for the 2021-2022 school year begins April 21, and families can learn more about preschool options and enrollment by visiting the ACPS Early Childhood Programs webpage. To learn more about Smart Beginnings’ collective systems-building efforts and The Basics™, visit

The writer is superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools.