Above: Four-year-old Ivy Woodward requested a rainbow at the face painting table.
Haymarket Baptist Church Preschool celebrated its 30th anniversary in May and director Laurie Frasz and her team didn’t let it pass without an appropriate fuss. A party gathered current and former students and their families for a celebratory blow-out on May 18.
“We started in 1989 as a ministry of the church, with two classrooms, two teachers and one teaching assistant,” said Frasz. One hundred and forty students were on the rolls when Frasz started at the school in 2004.
Now, 300 children attend. Twenty classes of students – 2, 3, 4, and 5 years old – use ten classrooms. There are morning, afternoon and all-day classes available; some are two days a week, some three days and some five days a week.
At the request (or maybe, demand) of pre-school parents, kindergarten was added in 2006. Three classrooms of 12 kindergarten students currently attend the Haymarket Baptist school. “Those first kindergarten kids are graduating from high school this year,” said Frasz.
Frasz and her staff have a clear vision for the preschool. “Number one, parents need to know you love their children, and they need to feel, ‘my child is safe here.’ “
In 2018, Haymarket Baptist Preschool received its second five-year accreditation by the Association of Christian Schools International. “We took three years to prepare for that first accreditation,” said Frasz. “We wanted to make sure that we thought through everything and had all our T’s crossed. It was an intense process.”
All teachers have some early education training. Several earned degrees in other specialties – business or journalism, for instance – then returned to school for early childhood education. Several teachers have master’s degrees and all pursue annual continuing education credits.
Frasz said that teachers strive to give their students a good foundation; they hope to instill a joy in learning and a love of God. The goal is to serve their students’ spiritual, academic, social, emotional and physical needs, she said.
A place for learning
All classrooms at Haymarket Baptist are neatly organized. They have to be. Most serve double duty, hosting one group of kids in the morning and another in the afternoon. Between sessions, everything is put back in its place, ready for the next class of eager learners.
It’s clear that spaces are designed to encourage equal portions of fun and learning. Bible stories adorn the walls, alongside colorful cartoon-y drawings featuring letters, numbers and science lessons.
Two playgrounds, one for little ones and one for older children, offer a safe, exciting place to run, jump and play. There is even a figure-eight bike track and kid-sized bikes and trikes.
Families are welcome at Haymarket Baptist Preschool. In fact, parents are required to provide a certain number of volunteer hours to the school each year.
“One of my favorite things that we do are our seasonal programs,” Frasz said. Moms arrive at school for “Muffins with Mom,” a “Mommy and Me Spa” or a Mother’s Day tea. Dads get plenty of love to, at “Dessert with Daddy,” an arts and crafts project where Dad and child create a “World’s Best Dad” tie and a “Decorate with Dad” Christmas decorating session.
In addition to teachers and parents, students have another partner on their team – Haymarket Baptist Church. Frasz said that although the school, a separate 501-c3, controls its own finances, the school and the church work together often. Pastor Mark Olson meets with teachers to pray each morning and visits with the children several times a month.
Pastor Olson’s office is next to the school’s music room. “I love to listen to the children singing,” he said.
An extra-special feature of the school is an after-school enrichment program. Parents can choose to register their children for gymnastics, Spanish, tae kwon do, or fun science lessons. A running club, Lego club, art and cooking classes or Daisy Troop are other options.
The 30th anniversary celebration on May 18 had the feel of a family reunion, as teachers welcomed back more than a dozen members of the school’s first kindergarten class, now graduating from high school.
Frasz gushed over each one; she remembered them as they were when they were “littles.” All those students who attended are heading to college – James Madison, Virginia Tech, Radford, Liberty University – and one will be heading to West Point.
Frasz marveled at how much the students have grown since they started kindergarten in 2004. Just like the students, she said, “Our school has changed so much over the years. We grew as the community grew.”