NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – In partnership with Peake Childhood Center and Virginia Peninsula Community College, the City of Newport News has broken ground on an $11 million early childhood center expected to open in summer 2024.

The new facility will serve about 200 children ages six weeks to 5-years-old. Though it is located in the city’s Southeast community, it will support children and families throughout the region.

“Nationwide, 56% of children who come from economically-disadvantaged homes are not ready when they begin school,” said Newport News Mayor McKinley L. Price in a statement. “High quality early education programs increase student achievement from kindergarten through graduation and beyond. We plan to make early childhood education more accessible in Newport News and empower parents to become actively involved in their child’s learning.”

The Peake Childhood Center will handle the programming and daily operations of the Newport News Early Childhood Center. It currently operates a site in Hampton, and plans to implement many of the services, along with its funding model, in Newport News.

Peake’s center has the Peninsula’s only sliding-scale tuition rate, and is based on family income and need. It is also open to the public.

“This unique partnership of a municipality, nonprofit, and institution of higher learning will be a model across the state and nation,” said Dr. Jennifer Parish, executive director of the Peake Childhood Center. “Peake Childhood Center will now provide affordable and high-quality care for children in Newport News while ensuring the children are school ready when they leave us.”

She said support provided by Newport News will help its children while making the workforce stronger since families can stay in their jobs and get support to help them be a part of their child’s success.

“We are excited about this partnership, which ensures that more children arrive academically, socially, and emotionally prepared for kindergarten,” said Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon, VPCC president. 

She called it “a transformational partnership” between VPCC, the city and the Peake Childhood Center.

The school will be forming a Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Development, Brannon said, to support teachers with professional development and provide families, parents and other adults with specialized training.

It will also offer associate degree classes in early childhood education at the new location, and students will have experiential training opportunities at the Early Childhood Center, she said.

Newport News is using American Rescue Plan money to cover construction costs, while the Peake Childhood Center has begun a fundraising campaign for the money needed for annual operating costs of the new center.