How Preschool Works in West Virginia

Takeaway: West Virginia licenses center-based care providers, but oversight of home-based care providers is relatively lax. The state’s child care search is woefully out-of-date (though simple and easy to use) and only allows filtering by location. West Virginia has been improving its well-developed pre-K program since 2002, and now all counties in West Virginia offer universal pre-K.

Overview

West Virginia’s preschool regulations allow legal care to take place in a facility or a home. Only center-based care providers are required to be licensed, however; and oversight of home-based programs is very limited. (For smaller programs, the only inspections performed are self-inspections done by the provider.) West Virginia’s database search is unfortunately outdated, but is simple to navigate. The search only filters by county, city, or zip. Results then display contact information, capacity details, and inspection reports.

West Virginia’s pre-K program is among the most well-developed in the country. In 2002, the state passed legislation creating universal pre-K for all 4-year-olds starting in 2012–2013. Now, universal pre-K has been expanded to all 55 counties in West Virginia.

Center-Based Care

West Virginia requires any facility offering child care to 13 or more children in a non-residential setting to be licensed as a child care center. Capacity is determined based upon license type and facility size — and it, in turn, determines personnel requirements; the state requires that each child have 35 square feet of activity space.

There are three types of center-based facilities: type 1, for up to 30 children; type 2, for 31 to 60 children; and type 3, for groups larger than 60 children. Center directors, depending on the type of center, are required to have extensive relevant experience or college credits in early childhood education. Centers are subject to inspection by the state fire marshal and the Department of Environmental Health Services. All centers must observe suitable teacher-to-children ratios. These are 1:4 for infants, 1:8 for toddlers, and 1:12 for children over 5 years of age.

Home-Based Care

Home-based care programs, also called family care, are not required to be licensed. Instead, they must be certified. Prior to certification, West Virginia requires onsite inspection; however, inspections are not mandatory once a center has been certified. Family care facilities take place in a residential setting and are for groups of seven to 12 children. Programs with smaller groups of children, as well as relative care, are required to be registered, a process that requires self-inspection by the caregiver and comes with the recommendation that parents actively monitor facilities.

Unlicensed Care

West Virginia grants few exemptions from licensing. Providers caring for preschool children and operating for fewer than four hours daily may be exempt. In addition, some programs for school-aged children, if grant-funded through the Department of Education, may also be exempt.

Discover West Virginia preschools near you using the free Noodle preschool search, the most comprehensive tool of its kind.