The Magnolia Cooperative Preschool marked a milestone April 20 when it celebrated its golden anniversary in the United Church of Christ.
"I think we're even older than that," said Adele Anderson, a former Queen Anne resident and lead teacher at the preschool. The co-op started out in private homes and was located in another church for a time, she explained.
Her own children went to the preschool, and she's been a teacher for more than 27 years in a setting where the parents help out one day a week as assistant teachers, Anderson said. The parents typically pay tuition once a month, she added. "We also have lots and lots of families here on scholarships."
The preschool teaches children up to kindergarten age, but the youngest students are 1-year-old babies, she said. "We have great toddler classes."
The preschool was facing a potential problem when a nearby neighbor complained last year about the school and the theater school located in the church. That triggered a city investigation, Anderson said. "It felt like we needed some special permit to operate." Research revealed that wasn't the case, she said. The theater school was also cleared.
The preschool is affiliated with Seattle Central Community College, an umbrella organization that helps provide insurance, Anderson said. "I think the program, from the college's perspective, is ours [cooperative school] is one of the biggest and has been healthy for a long, long time."
But there's more to the preschool than just early childhood education, Anderson said. The children's parents also get an education.
"There are lots of degrees but nothing to tell you how to be a parent," she explained, adding that parents can learn what it takes to raise children.
"We nurture all these families and encourage them to become involved in their children's schools," Anderson said. In fact, she went on to say, many of the preschool's parents later go on to become PTA presidents at other schools when they move away.
The preschool has taught hundreds and hundreds of children in the five-plus decades of its existence, she said. Some of the children who went to the preschool have returned as parents of kids in the program, Anderson added with a smile. "They just build a tremendous sense of family."
Lots and lots of kids who went to the preschool come back to visit, she said. That included one man who just stood grinning at the gate to the preschool's playground, something that made Anderson nervous until she found out it was a former student, she said.
George Pierce, a Magnolian who enrolled his children at the preschool in the past, was at the anniversary celebration. "We wouldn't miss it," he said of himself and his wife.
"We heard about the co-op and how hard it was to get in," Pierce said. It still is, for that matter, and there's waiting a list of around 60 for classes for 1- and 2-year-olds, Anderson said.
One of the great things about the preschool, she said, is that children at the preschool learn to respect authority and develop social skills by interacting with other children.
"To this day, because of Adele, our kids are still very good in social situations," said Pierce, who described Anderson as having the patience of Job.
Pat and Delores Bettin were also at the anniversary party. Their children were enrolled at the preschool in 1981 when they lived in the Fort Lawton area of Magnolia, Pat said.
"We got to know a lot of parents, and we had the best teachers," Delores added. "We had had 15 foster children before, so we had the experience," she said. But they could also use more experience in parent education, Delores said.
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