Author: Erika Christ
Brynmor Early Education & Preschool will be located in buildings P1 and P3 at Lorton’s Liberty Market.
A brand-new, privately owned early childhood education center is slated to open at Liberty Market in Lorton this fall.
Brynmor Early Education & Preschool is the brainchild of Rhian Allvin, a leader in early education who spent nearly nine years as chief executive officer of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). She decided to launch her own company to address what she saw as three critical deficits: a lack of childcare for children up to age five, a lack of high-quality options for care, and insufficient opportunities for early childhood educators to have a professional experience.
According to a 2021 report from the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, “high-quality care” traditionally means well-equipped classrooms, small group sizes, low adult-child ratios, regular communication and positive relationships between students and teachers, daily opportunities for creativity, movement and science/math learning, promotion of diversity, parent/family engagement and quality staff who receive fair compensation, regular supervision and opportunities for growth. The report identified Lorton as one of the communities in Northern Virginia with insufficient childcare availability.
Allvin said she really wanted to open Brynmor in Fairfax County — she also explored options in the Dulles and Chantilly area — but ultimately settled on Lorton because there are at least 1,000 kids in the area who need care. The opportunity to occupy space in historic buildings at the transformed Lorton Prison was an added incentive.
“Quite frankly I fell in love with the redevelopment of Liberty Market — the history,” said Allvin. “You have to acknowledge what that space was and its complex racial history. The notion of it becoming someplace so hopeful really struck me.”
Right now, buildings P1 and P3 — the future home of the childcare facility — are still vacant. The historic structures were gutted and now sport new roofs, attics, and electricity and fire suppression systems; however, they eventually will be built out with classrooms, indoor/outdoor play spaces and other requisite building systems. The site will feature a 5,500-square-foot, enclosed outdoor play area between the two buildings, according to documents from the South County Federation, and will have plenty of parking. Right around the corner from the facility is the Lidl supermarket and other retail businesses and restaurants, which are scheduled to open this spring.
This past December, Allvin received approval from the Fairfax County Planning Commission to increase the maximum number of children permitted at Brynmor from 100 to 200; however, she plans to seek accreditation by NAEYC and find out how many spaces they are licensed for. She initially is aiming for Brynmor to house around 154 kids from six weeks to five years of age. The center will hire around 40 staff members, 36 of whom will be experienced, play-based educators employing the HighScope Preschool Curriculum, which is premised on active learning.
“The intent is to lean into all developmental science that exists for these really foundational first five years of life and have that be core to our program,” said Allvin. She also wants children’s families to be a key part of the program and to drop in when desired.
Brynmor’s tuition is still under exploration. Allvin said she hopes to be qualified to serve families eligible for subsidies, as well as military families.
Pre-enrollment for Brynmor is scheduled to start in May 2023. The center, located at 9050 and 9060 Power House Road in Lorton, eventually will be open Mondays through Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.