The mission of Barrett Early Learning Center (BELC) is to promote and foster growth and development in children, ages 2-5 years old, by providing a high quality preschool/child care environment that offers a variety of sensory, language, cognitive and social experiences designed to generate a love for learning and prepare children for a successful future in education and life.
Brief History of the Barrett Early Learning Center
Barrett Early Learning Center, the oldest childcare center in the Commonwealth, opened in 1935 as the Janie Porter Barrett Nursery School under FDR’s Works Progress Administration program (WPA) for “colored” woman working in WPA service centers. When WPA ended in 1941 along with its funding, African American leaders in the Starr Hill community rallied to keep the Barrett Day Nursery open recognizing the invaluable role it played for working women with low paying jobs and few employment opportunities.
It was a struggle until a chapter of the Community Chest (now United Way) organized in Charlottesville in 1944 and sponsored Barrett as one of ten “Red Feather Agencies.” United Way has been a dedicated partner ever since, most notably in 1958, when they gifted the house at 410 Ridge St. to the Barrett Day Care Center.
In the summer of 2003, the Center underwent significant changes. The Board of Directors elected to change the name of the Center to Barrett Early Learning Center to reflect its emphasis on teaching and learning, with regard to all aspects of child development: social, emotional, intellectual and physical. This effort has taken on a renewed significance with the renewed focus on the importance of preschool education for school readiness.
Geographic and demographic profile
Barrett’s role in the community has remained steady in the 80+ years since its inception, providing a safe, nurturing, and educational experience for the children of low income working families in Charlottesville. The majority of the families enrolled qualify for free or reduced meals, according to USDA guidelines and/or receive tuition assistance from the Department of Social Services or United Way. In addition, Barrett plays an invaluable role in child welfare services for children experiencing foster care, and family intervention services by providing a safe, nurturing, and supportive environment at short notice. The Center is open year round, from 7:00 am until 6:00 pm.
The mission of Barrett Early Learning Center (BELC) is to promote and foster growth and development in children, ages 2-5 years old, by providing a high quality preschool/child care environment that offers a variety of sensory…