WINCHESTER — Financial support from a recently established educational foundation will allow Winchester Public Schools to add a ninth Virginia Preschool Initiative class in the 2020-21 school year.

The John and Janice Wyatt Foundation, also known as the J2W Foundation, is a private, entrepreneurial grant-making foundation based in Fairfax County. According to a media release from the organization, its mission is to level the educational playing field for socially and economically disadvantaged children.

Executive Director Matthew Peterson, former head of the Winchester-based Blue Ridge Habitat for Humanity, became the foundation’s first director in December and oversees its operations from an office at 100 N. Loudoun St. in Winchester.

“Our belief is that if we can invest in children as early as possible, their future opportunities for learning and evolving into successful adults are so much greater,” Peterson said in the release.

The J2W Foundation provided a matching grant of an undisclosed sum to Winchester Public Schools so the system could utilize Virginia Department of Education funds to launch a ninth Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) class to serve at-risk 4-year-olds who are not enrolled in a federal Head Start program. The additional class of 18 students means that a total of 162 children in Winchester will be served by VPI in the new school year.

“Through this additional classroom, year over year we can increase children’s access to quality pre-k, which, down the road, we are certain will result in improved academic performance, higher graduation rates and, ultimately, will position these kids to be college and/or career ready,” Peterson said in the release.

“The J2W Foundation is a new partner with the Winchester Public Schools and we are excited about their commitment to early childhood education,” city schools Superintendent Jason Van Heukelum said in the release.

The foundation formed in July 2018 to support public school students in Winchester, Fairfax County and Dorchester County, Maryland. Since January, it has issued a total of $47,500 in educational grants.

The nonprofit recently pivoted its strategy to address the unique educational needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic that forced school systems to close to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Over the next few months, the release states, the foundation’s goals include transitioning from disaster response work to longer-term recovery and sustainment.

For more information about the John and Janice Wyatt Foundation, visit j2wfoundation.org.

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