YWCA launches affordable, mixed-income preschool program

Introducing the Sprout School, a new affordable, mixed-income preschool program offered by the YWCA of Richmond—with a little help from their friends at the Children’s Museum.

Photo by: Jack Skipworth

Building on 40 years of experience in early childhood education–and continuing its effort to get kids ready for kindergarten–the YWCA of Richmond has announced the launch of a new, mixed-income preschool program for kids ages 18 months to five years: The Sprout School.

While Richmond’s YWCA has offered high-quality early childhood education for years, the Sprout School gives the program a new name and, with it, a new approach to preparing children for kindergarten success. The school will make use of a Reggio Emilia-inspired curriculum that encourages discovery, creativity, and community. As a press release from the YWCA explained, “This approach is particularly effective for vulnerable and at-risk children, but also nationally recognized as a preschool program that is highly successful for kindergarten readiness.”

The Sprout School will be housed in two locations: the YWCA’s 5th street facility downtown (where classes are already underway)…and the Children’s Museum of Richmond’s Central location on Broad Street.

(Yes, you read that correctly. Preschool inside the Children’s Museum. Your kids’ minds will be blown.)

CMoR Central will serve as the Sprout School’s satellite location, with construction on two brand new classrooms beginning in June and finishing up in time for the start of the fall semester.


“Working with CMoR, we are leveraging recognized and knowledgeable community assets to meet an important local need, while also offering a unique mixed-income model that creates a culture of community,” said Linda S. Tissiere, Chief Executive Officer of the YWCA of Richmond. “This partnership will create community impact by introducing the first mixed-income, museum-housed preschool in the Richmond area for families looking for full-scholarship to full-pay tuition options, as well as a diverse community-minded approach to education.”

The Sprout School classrooms at CMoR will accommodate about 30 students; the school’s total enrollment is 130. In general, spots in the Sprout School are first-come, first-served, but enrollment at the CMoR location will be need-based during the program’s pilot years, explained Rupa Murthy, the YWCA of Richmond’s Chief Development Officer.1

“Our goal is to have one-third full-pay, one-third partial-scholarship, and one-third full-scholarship in the fall of 2016,” Rupa said.

High quality and affordable childcare and kindergarten readiness programs targeting low-income families is much-needed in the Richmond area. According to the 2015 United Way “Indicators of Community Strength” report, 41% of kids (infants to age five) in the Greater Richmond and Petersburg area live in poverty–and children in poverty are more likely to earn less income as adults, complete fewer years of education, and face more health issues than their wealthier counterparts. Meanwhile, in 2013, the median income in the City of Richmond was $39,249; the median income in the Greater Richmond region was just over $64,182. And the average cost of year-round childcare? $11,666. PER CHILD.

The Sprout School offers sliding scale tuition, with partial and full scholarships made possible by donations from individuals, corporations, and private foundations. Thomas N. Chewning, retired Chief Financial Officer of Dominion Resources and past chair of Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, made an early and “significant” (so says the YWCA press release) donation to the Sprout School to help get things off the ground.

“[My wife] Nancy and I see the importance of making sound investments in educational programs that are founded on the basis of solid research and create positive outcomes for children and families,” said Chewning. “The YWCA has researched the need, formed collaborative partnerships, and structured its new program for success. When the Richmond region spends more than $9 million each year on children who must repeat grades [K through 3], in part because they came into elementary school without a strong pre-K foundation, it makes good sense to invest in a program like this.”

While the Sprout School aims for two-thirds of its student body to attend for free or on partial scholarship, there are full-pay options available for parents looking for quality and diversity in their child’s preschool experience. Full tuition is $230 per week for ages 18 months through three years, and $200 per week for ages three to five.

The Sprout School is currently accepting children for the school year and for summer enrollment. Visit sproutschoolrva.org for more details–including information on the new curriculum, who to contact about scholarships, and how to get in on this exciting addition to Richmond’s education community.

  1. Don’t worry: children not placed in the CMoR location full-time will take weekly trips to the museum as a class. 
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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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