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SPS seeks applicants for Early Start

Applications for Suffolk Public Schools’ Early Start program for 4-year-olds are now available on the division’s website, at each elementary school office and at the school administrative office downtown.

Early Start, a Virginia Preschool Initiative program that served 422 students this past year, is designed to give at-risk children an extra year to prepare for success in kindergarten. It has been developed to reduce disparities among young children and help eliminate risk factors that can lead to early academic failure.

The program is housed in the city’s public elementary schools and has a 1:9 teacher-to-student ratio, with qualification for the program based on poverty levels and other risk factors that can affect student success.

The program uses the High Scope curriculum as its core instructional program. It is designed to give children a strong academic foundation while promoting social skills and creativity. Last year, it began participating in the new STREAMin3 curriculum pilot initiative funded by the Obici Healthcare Foundation. The STREAMin3 curriculum, focused on the “STREAM” skills of science, technology, reading, engineering, art and math, was in 112 classrooms across the state this past year — 62 of those in Western Tidewater.

Pam Northam, the wife of Gov. Ralph Northam, toured a pair of pre-K classrooms last fall, reading to children at both The Children’s Center and Elephant’s Fork Elementary School.

At the time, Elephant’s Fork Principal Jessica Avery said she has noticed positive differences socially for children who are a part of the Early Start program.

Eligible students must be a Suffolk resident who turns 4 by Sept. 30. The following documents are required:

  • Picture identification — driver’s license or state-issued identification card
  • Child’s birth certificate
  • Proof of income — 2019 W-2, 2019 1040 tax form, two most recent pay stubs, TANF or SSI documentation
  • Unemployment letter
  • Foster child documentation
  • Alimony
  • Child support
  • Proof of residency — current lease agreement, mortgage statement, water bill, electric or gas bill dated within the last 30 days (other bills will not be accepted)

Parents will be contacted to schedule a screening. However, due to COVID-19, Early Start screenings for both the child and his or her parent will be scheduled in compliance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, and masks will be required.

Applications can be returned to the schools, the School Administrative Office or mailed to Suffolk Public Schools Administrative Offices, 100 N. Main St., Suffolk, VA 23434, Attention: Pam Connor.

For questions regarding this program, contact Tomika Doleman at 925-6760.

The application for the program can be found at:  www.spsk12.net/programs/early_start/__v_p_i__early_start_application.