Local preschool nonprofit launches outdoor classes in Loudoun | News

Christel Deskins

The nonprofit All Ages Read Together, which provides free preschool programs to underserved 4- and 5-year-olds in Loudoun and Fairfax counties, has begun holding outdoor classes in local parks and other recreational spaces, representatives announced Sept. 18. “I am so incredibly proud of our teaching staff,” AART Executive Director Michelle […]

The nonprofit All Ages Read Together, which provides free preschool programs to underserved 4- and 5-year-olds in Loudoun and Fairfax counties, has begun holding outdoor classes in local parks and other recreational spaces, representatives announced Sept. 18.

“I am so incredibly proud of our teaching staff,” AART Executive Director Michelle Sullivan said in a prepared statement. “Not only did the team embrace this moment with creativity and dedication, they designed a truly unique way to deliver safe, quality educational experiences for our students.”

AART delivered its classes virtually from March to August, though the nonprofit’s staff recognized the importance of eventually conducting classes safely in person, leading one team member to suggest they conduct classes outdoors with social distancing measures in place.

The classes take place with students seated 6 feet apart and wearing masks, and each child can be accompanied by a parent or caretaker.

A team of AART volunteers and community members made more than 300 special masks with clear windows for the teachers, as they are tasked with showing students how to shape their mouths to form letters.

Money from Loudoun and Fairfax counties given via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act helped fund PPE for the nonprofit, while the Ashburn Chapter of the Youth Men’s Service League bought and organized bags of class materials for students.

“Thankfully, we have an amazing community because we would not have been able to do this alone,” Sullivan said.

Per AART officials, about 18 percent of preschool-aged children in the commonwealth actually attend preschool, and many low- to moderate-income families are not able to access quality preschool education — facts that further galvanized the AART team to provide in-person learning this year.

“We are truly the last resort for the children and families we serve,” Program Director Julie Brunson said in a prepared statement.

“We are truly changing the lives of our students by helping them develop a love of learning and reading,” Sullivan added.

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