Where were you in November of 1970? A far-sighted group of Grace Presbyterian Church members was meeting to study the possibility of opening a preschool. The “project team” included public school teachers, mothers of young children, and church school teachers. Members of the team visited 8 different church-related preschools before deciding on the philosophy and type of preschool to be established at Grace. They also worked with a Licensing Agent of the State Department of Health and Social Services to meet state regulations. Others worked on incorporation (covered by the church’s non-profit status and incorporation); financing and equipment; preparing by-laws; meeting licensing requirements and setting enrollment procedures. In addition, committees were set up to assess the site being considered (rooms 10 and 11) as well as the play yard.
After completing the preliminary requirements, a committee was appointed by the Session (functions similar to our Board of Directors) to interview applicants for Director/Lead Teacher. In April of 1971, Charie B. Reid was chosen as the first Director/Lead Teacher of Grace Cooperative Preschool. Charie Reid worked with the project team to develop a brochure and an operating manual. Another committee worked on building needed equipment.
The first parent meeting of Grace Cooperative Preschool was held August 31, 1971 and the school opened to children and parents September 13 with 16 children enrolled. Charie Reid continued to direct the preschool for over 20 years and continued in her support and encouragement as Associate Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church. Marlene Hall succeeded as Director/Lead Teacher in January, 1991. Lavenia Black went from volunteer to our inspiring music teacher during the early ‘90s. After years as a parent and volunteer, Meg Fiset’s relationship with the preschool was formalized when she was hired as a teacher in September of 2005. In 2011, Grace added a third class, and welcomed new teachers Joy Martin and Trish Kawahara, to teach a Pre-Kindergarten class, which was replaced with at Transitional kindergarten class at the public schools. A 2 year old class joined the preschool in 2014, taught by Sarah Lee-Jaine, also a Grace alum parent.
While the preschool was started by members of the church, the families enrolled generally came from the larger community. The church continues its active sponsorship of the preschool by its ready collaboration with the staff and enrolled families. Church families are strong supporters of our Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser, and are often invited to participate in other preschool events. Preschool families in turn appreciate the intergenerational experiences.
Over the years the preschool has served families from a wide geographic area. This has brought a rich diversity that strengthens our community by introducing new ideas and new experiences. We are grateful to those who started the preschool and those who continue to encourage the growth and development of children and their families through their preschool experiences. In 2011 Grace preschool celebrated 40 years of teaching our children through play. We are still going strong and look forward to many more anniversaries to come!