Washington, DC – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser and DC Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee celebrated the start of the 2022-2023 Pre-K school year at the ribbon cutting of the modernized Historic Randle Highlands Early Learning Center. In recent years, Mayor Bowser has invested over $100 million in the expansion of early childhood education opportunities, and the Historic Randle Highlands is the third DCPS Early Learning Center to open since 2020. In 2020, the Stevens Early Learning Center opened in Ward 2 and in 2021 the Military Road Early Learning Center opened in Ward 4.
“We are proud to have the best free Pre-K program in the nation right here in Washington, DC – and today, with the addition of the Historic Randle Highlands Early Learning Center, we’re making it even better,” said Mayor Bowser. “We know that access to high-quality learning opportunities make a critical difference in the rest of a child’s life. When you visit our DCPS Pre-K classes, what you will notice right away is that our children are not only learning, but they are being loved and having a joyful experience.”
The newly modernized Historic Randle Highlands Early Learning Center spans approximately 21,200 square feet over three floors. The modernization allows Randle Highlands to double their Pre-K slots to 112 seats across 11 classrooms. All 11 Pre-K classrooms are now in the newly modernized building, which will also house an infant and toddler childcare center that will be operated by a community-based provider.
“DCPS is committed to creating joyful and rigorous learning experiences for every student including our youngest leaners in Pre-Kindergarten,” said Chancellor Lewis Ferebee. “The modernized Historic Randle Highlands building allows the school to become a DCPS Early Learning Center that will also work with a community-based organization to provide childcare services for infants and toddlers.”
The Historic Randle Highlands Early Learning Center is one of three newly modernized DCPS schools opening this week; on Monday, DCPS also welcomed students back to Smothers Elementary School in Ward 7 and School-Within-School at Goding in Ward 6. Today’s opening is part of an investment in Mayor Bowser’s FY 2020 budget – it 2019, the Mayor included $52 million to create new child care and early childhood education opportunities at the Historic Randle Highlands School, the Old Miner School in Ward 6, and the Thurgood Marshall School in Ward 5. This year, Mayor Bowser announced a $294 million commitment over the next six-year capital improvement program to preserve and maintain recreation, library, and school facilities that will include enhancements to fund classroom technology replacement and ensure facilities reach and maintain ADA compliance.
Managed by the Department of General Services (DGS), the $13.5 million modernization of the Historic Randle Highlands Early Learning Center began in spring 2021. Originally constructed in 1911 in an Elizabethan style, the modernized building retains characteristics reminiscent of the original classroom concept, coupled with an addition of a modern ‘discovery pod’ classroom style. The renovation also includes construction of a new exterior vestibule connected by a covered walkway to the cafeteria, playground, and outdoor seating area. New pieces of original local art through the DGS ‘Percent for Art’ program are also installed at Historic Randle Highlands Early Learning Center to include a new 10-foot high 3-D hornet sculpture in the planting garden by artist Colin Selig, a 3-D water pebbles display located on the welcome center wall by Kristin Pobatsching, and a child-divers mural located in a stairwell by artist Erica Nichols.
Additional features of the modernization include the preservation of a designated historic classroom ceiling and floor, the restoration of the original interior staircases, the integration of themed biophilic environmental graphics that celebrate the adjacent Potomac landscape, and the addition of state-of-the-art technology for all learning environments. The facility is designed for LEED Gold energy performance.
“The Department of General Services has provided modernization at 89 public schools since 2007, and I am proud that the Historic Randle Early Learning Center is now among this number,” said DGS Director Keith A. Anderson. “The increase in school renovations represents a strong commitment to designing facilities that match the unique needs of education and meeting the changing trends in the architectural and construction industries. Those who will most benefit from this combined commitment are District students.”
The Mayor has supported the child care sector and DC families in fiscal year 2022 (FY22) through robust investments in child care subsidies and initiatives to improve the supply of child care and support the child care workforce. Child development facilities participating in the District’s child care subsidy program received increased subsidy payment rates to reflect the increased costs to deliver child care and maintain a supply of affordable care for low-income families during the pandemic recovery. The District budgeted $125 million, including $75 million in local funds, for child care subsidy payments in FY2022. Child development facilities also have the opportunity to receive support through grant programs totaling $80 million that will be distributed between FY22-24 including the DC Child Care Stabilization Grant, the Back to Work Child Care Grant and the Access to Quality Child Care Grant. And strong investments have also been made in the early childhood educator workforce through the Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund, which will deliver $53.9 million to eligible early childhood educators in DC in FY22 and another $72.8 million in FY23 through direct payments to educators. Early childhood educators can also receive support to earn credentials that meet future education requirements through the $4.2 million DC Leading Educators toward Advanced Degrees (DC LEAD) program and the $600,000 CDA Scholarship program.
With the start of a new school year, Mayor Bowser also released a 2022 Back to School Guide to help families navigate the many District programs that can support families and students in and out of the classroom. Find the guide at backtoschool.dc.gov.