Education and Youth Enrichment

Education is a critical component of personal development and lifelong success. Even before kindergarten, poverty is strongly correlated with educational disadvantage. Students from low-income families are at greater risk than their peers for low educational achievement, which can harm self-esteem and dampen the desire to pursue further education. As the Vice Principal of Rockbridge County High School, Dr. Angela Wilder, states,

Early Childhood

Receiving quality early childcare is crucial for later development. Early childhood is seen as especially formative for cognitive skills, social behaviors, and health.2 Yet, early childcare is extremely expensive. In Virginia, full-time care for an infant in a day care center typically costs $10,458, the equivalent of 11% of the average married couple's joint income or 38% of the average single mother's annual income.3 This is almost as much as the average annual tuition at an in-state public university ($10,898 per year).4 Childcare then poses a special challenge for the single-parent households with median incomes less than the state average. 28.4% of children in the Rockbridge area live in single-parent households, which typically earn dramatically less annually than multiple-income households.5

How expensive is child care?6
Type of CareVirginia CostUS Cost
Infant, in a center $10,458 $4,822 - $17,062
4-year-old, in a center $7,957 $3,997 - $12,781
School age (before/after school care), in a center $3,399 $1,104 - $8,919
Infant, in home $8,139 $3,972 - $10,666
4-year-old, in home $6,625 $3,675 - $10,030
School age (before/after school care), in a home $2,763 $1,846 - $8,346
Tuition and Fees for public four-year college (in-state) $10,899 $8,980
Percent of income, married couple, infant in center 11% 7% - 15%
Percent of income, single mother, infant in center 38% 24% - 63%

While the area has several fully licensed childcare centers (some with sliding scale fee schedules), the higher cost of care at such centers remains a barrier for many low and moderate-income families. In 2014, 41 families (67 children) in Rockbridge received childcare vouchers that reduced these costs.7 Because of this, many families utilize smaller, lower-cost, home-based family day cares. In Virginia, family childcare homes with less than six children do not need to register with the state for licensure, so there is no comprehensive list of these centers.8

Head Start and Early Head Start provide care and education to children ages 0-5 living in families below the FPL at six locations in the Rockbridge area. While Head Start is federally funded and does not require out of pocket tuition from parents, there are only about 20 Head Start slots each year for children ages 3 to 5 in the Rockbridge area.9 These slots fill up fast, and children who do not get in are put on waiting lists. The state of Virginia supplements early childcare options by providing fully funded preschool for a small number of at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds through its Virginia Preschool Initiative program. However, there were only 45 VPI slots in Rockbridge County and Buena Vista in fiscal year 2014.10 In Rockbridge County where about 19.9% of 4 year-olds in the 2014- 2015 school year tested below Kindergarten Readiness, as compared to Virginia's 12.9%11, access to early childhood education is particularly critical.12

K-12 Education

There are three school districts in the Rockbridge area that provide public education for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Of these districts, Rockbridge County Public Schools serve about 2,500 students at Central, Fairfield, Mountain View, and Natural Bridge Elementary Schools and Maury River Middle School.13 Lexington City Schools include Harrington Waddell Elementary School and Lylburn Downing Middle School.14 Though Lexington and Rockbridge County have different elementary and middle schools, the Rockbridge County High School serves students from both areas. Students in Buena Vista typically go to FW Kling Elementary for Kindergarten through second grade, Enderly Heights Elementary for third and fourth grade, Parry McCluer Middle School for fifth through seventh grades, and Parry McCluer High School for grades eight through twelve.

In this area, the 2015 on-time high school graduation rate was 92.4% for Lexington and Rockbridge County combined and 84.2% for Buena Vista, compared to Virginia's 90.5%.15 The rates were significantly lower for economically disadvantaged students.16

Student achievement in English, History/Social Science, Science, and Mathematics is assessed annually through the Standards of Learning tests (SOLs). As a major component of Virginia's accountability system, these assessments set a benchmark score for schools to meet in order to receive accreditation. Ratings range from fully accredited to accreditation denied. Schools not reaching full accreditation status must develop and implement improvement plans and are subject to intervention.17 The Rockbridge area schools fully accredited in 2015-2016 were Rockbridge County High, Mountain View Elementary, Lylburn Downing Middle, Harrington Waddell Elementary, Central Elementary, Fairfield Elementary, and Maury River Middle School.18 The other five schools were partially accredited.19 Progress is being made, according to the Rockbridge County Public Schools Superintendent, as five of the six County schools are fully accredited for the 2015-2016 school year, with Natural Bridge Elementary receiving an accreditation with warning.20

Postsecondary Education

In the Rockbridge area, 76.1% of students continue education after high school graduation,21 while others begin working immediately. Students at Rockbridge County High School have the opportunity for career and technical education as part of a dual enrollment program that trains students in family and consumer science, agriculture, automotive technology, building trades, collision repair, and culinary technology.22 Although there are three major four-year universities in the area, only a small percentage of Rockbridge students attend these schools. The graph below shows the percentage of people with high school diplomas and college degrees living in the Rockbridge area.23 While the majority of people have graduated high school, the lack of bachelor's degrees creates employment and income challenges for many. Lexington has a particularly high rate of people with bachelor's degrees, most likely stemming from the universities' faculty, administration, and graduated students who reside in the area after college.

1 Angela Wilder (Vice Principal of Rockbridge County High School), in discussion with Jennifer Borman and Daniela Leon, June 11, 2015.

2 Center on the Developing Child, A Science-Based Framework for Early Childhood Policy, (Harvard University: National Forum on Early Childhood Program Evaluation, 2007), accessed 2015,

3"Child Care in America: 2015 State Fact Sheets," (Child Care Aware of America, May 2015), accessed June 17, 2016,

4 Ibid.

5 Laura Simpson, Rockbridge Area Community Health Needs Assessment, (Carilion Clinic, 2012), 20, accessed July 16, 2015,

6Chart adapted from 'Child Care in America: 2015 State Fact Sheets.'

7 See in table: Child Care Subsidy Cases Served, SFY, 2014-2015, "Local Department of Social Services Profile Report, SFY 2015," (Virginia Department of Social Services), accessed June 27, 2016,

8 "2015 Code of Virginia- Title 63.2," (Virginia Department of Social Services, July 1, 2015), 4-5, accessed June 27, 2016,

9 Melissa Tomlin in discussion with Jennifer Borman, July 22, 2015.

10"Virginia Indicators: Education," (Annie E. Casey Foundation), accessed August 20, 2015,

11 Ibid.

12 Ibid.

13 "Welcome to Rockbridge County Schools," (Rockbridge County Schools), accessed October 06, 2015,

14"Lexington City Schools," (Lexington City Schools), accessed October 06, 2015,

15 "Division-Level Cohort Report, Four Year Rate," (Virginia Department of Education), accessed June 27, 2016,

16 Ibid.

17 "Accountability and Virginia Public Schools," (Virginia Department of Education), accessed August 22, 2015,

18"Virginia Accreditation Status for 2015-2016 based on achievement results from 2014-2015," (Virginia Department of Education: Accreditation and Federal Reports, 2015), accessed June 27, 2016,


20 Albert Lewis (Rockbridge County Schools Superintendent), personal communication via email with Jennifer Borman, August 15, 2015.

21Community Profile: Rockbridge Area, Virginia, 12.

22"Career and Technical Services," (Rockbridge County High School), accessed June 22, 2016,

23 See in table: Education, "QuickFacts Beta," (United States Census Bureau), accessed June 20, 2016,,51678,51163,51,00.