New Catholic preschools open in Vienna and Reston

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Kathy Dallessandro stood in the basement of her new parish and looked at its 13 pristine classrooms and through the windows to the playground outside. As she surveyed the scene, the word “preschool” popped into the teacher’s mind. She didn’t know if there had ever been one at St. John Neumann Church in Reston. But she and her friend Ann Hanover wanted to see if it was possible. 

Both St. John Neumann and Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Vienna will open new preschools this fall. Many other preschools are growing, including St. John the Evangelist Preschool in Warrenton. The school is moving into a new building to accommodate 60-70 students, said director Julie Copeland. The school was designed with safety in mind, she said, with features such as a central camera system. 

In Reston, it took three years and the help of the priests, the pastoral council, the county zoning office and others to make the preschool at St. John Neumann a reality. The school will have six teachers for nearly 40 students and will use two classrooms for three classes. “When the first child registered, we were like, ‘It’s working, they’re coming,’ ” said Dallessandro. “People are so excited to have a Catholic option close by.”

No Catholic church in Reston, Herndon or Sterling has a preschool, so there’s interest inside and outside of St. John Neumann, said Dallessandro. “Because it’s such a large parish, people want to feel connected,” she said. “This is a way to build community and to bring these families closer to their own faith.” 

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A little girl slides at the St. John Neumann Preschool in Reston during a summer ice cream social Aug. 26.

ZOEY MARAIST  |  CATHOLIC HERALD

Our Lady of Good Counsel already had a kindergarten through eighth grade school with nearly 400 students when Father Matthew J. Hillyard, pastor, asked  if they could open a preschool. Laura Wood was working at a Lutheran preschool in Vienna when she read in her parish bulletin that they were looking for a director.

“I looked at it and thought, ‘No, I don’t want to do that.’ Then Mass started and the priest gave a homily about following God’s call,” said Wood. “By the end of Mass I thought, ‘I’ve got to pick up the phone and inquire.’ ”

As with St. John Neumann, Our Lady of Good Counsel will use existing classrooms in the parish to house their new preschool. “Everybody's excited to see what is going on in the classrooms,” said Wood, who will serve as co-director along with Valerie Harnisch. “Early on, we had a toy drive, and we were overwhelmed with donations of toys and things we could use in the classroom.”  This year, they’ll have four classrooms and a new playground for the 58 students enrolled. 

Both Wood and Dallessandro are excited to work in a Catholic preschool. “What is not to love about teaching preschool?” asked Dallessandro. “I’ve always taught in a faith-based environment, but I love the idea of teaching in a Catholic preschool, that you can share your faith with these young kids. That’s my calling in life.”

Jennifer Bigelow, superintendent of diocesan schools, said preschools are centers of evangelization. “We see our role as promoting lifelong learning in the Catholic faith, and it is important to make sure we start as young as possible,” she said. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018

@ZoeyMaraistACH