Getting Ready to Open the Early Childhood Center

You may have heard a lot about the new Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School opening this September. But have you also heard about the Early Childhood Center (ECC), co-located at John Adams Elementary school that is opening two days later on September 6?

While the building has supported Virginia Pre-K Initiative (VPI) students, Early Childhood Special Education and Head Start students for several years, this year, it will be opening as its own school with its own principal. New VPI and Head Start classes will be joining the ECC. Recently appointed principal Heidi Haggerty Wagner has extensive experience in preschool and elementary school leadership and in specialized instruction, serving students with disabilities.

The first stage in the modernization of the new pre-K facility was completed over the summer. Construction teams created new bathrooms within a set of classrooms and upgraded them with new flooring, ceilings, lighting and paint. They also created a shared entrance to adequately serve both the existing John Adams Elementary School and the Early Childhood Center students and staff, and a new health suite. The new administrative suites include areas for each administrative team and for counselors, social workers and psychologists.

During the second stage, which will take place next summer, upgrades will be made to the remaining classrooms and hallways to include new flooring, ceilings, lighting and paint. There will also be upgrades to support pre-k programs such as Head Start and Campagna.

The Early Childhood Center is the result of years of collaborative planning with the city and our partners, such as Campagna, and is an example of the power of collaboration in the delivery of services to our families and commitment to our youngest learners. It will include classroom space for 360 students from ACPS Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI), the Campagna Center Head Start program, ACPS Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) and ACPS Preschoolers Learning Together (PLT).

The establishment of the Early Childhood Center as its own school means that ACPS is able to offer Encore classes such as a music, library and physical education to our students with disabilities for the first time. They will also benefit from greater inclusion with students in the Virginia Preschool Initiative program.

In October, the school will be opening its first courtyard outdoor learning classroom called “Owen’s Place.” The garden will offer a dynamic environment for complex and powerful play opportunities to increase the ability of students to learn through play.

Elementary school teachers see a huge difference in the behavior and academic outcomes of students who have attended VPI preschool or Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) preschool classes prior to starting their elementary school education. The students from VPI preschool and ECSE are ready to learn independently and for the challenges of Kindergarten. They are familiar with the routines and adapt to the structure and expectations of Kindergarten, often better than their peers who have had no preschool experience. The teachers find that these students also become leaders in their classes — a pattern that is established early on and has an impact on how they view education and their role in a group.

Children who have attended preschool also have lower drop-out rates, have fewer issues in their teenage years, lower rates of teenage pregnancy and higher earnings once they graduate.

View our youngest students in action

ACPS, Early Childhood Center, Pre-K