The North Seattle College Cooperative Preschool Program has been around for over half a century and includes around a dozen coop preschools located in northeast Seattle and on Vashon Island. Coop preschools in the NSCCPP differ from traditional preschools and daycares in that they are run entirely by the families enrolled in the preschool. The parents work together with their preschool’s teachers and NSC Parent Educators to create a fun and engaging environment for their preschoolers to learn and grow. A typical day in the classroom involves child-led outdoor and indoor free play time, parent-led small group time (discussed in a bit more detail below), and teacher-led circle time.
Preschools in the NSCCPP run from September to May according to the Seattle Public School academic calendar. Parents work in the classroom once a week, assisting their preschool teacher in an assigned role. Parents are also expected to lead a small group of preschoolers in a short activity. If you’re stumped for ideas, there are many listed at the back of the Handbook you receive when you join one of our classes.
Parents hold volunteer administration jobs to keep the preschool running smoothly behind the scenes. Jobs include Chair, Treasurer, Secretary, Facilities Manager, Parent Coordinator, Teacher’s Assistant, Scheduler, Supplies Manager, Class Photographer, and more.
Parent education is an important part of the NSCCPP experience. Every preschool class has a NSC Parent Educator who works in class several times a month and leads a themed preschool-age-appropriate discussion during the once-monthly evening parent meeting. If you want to go above and beyond, the NSCCPP also offers free seminars and lectures throughout the school year. In addition, NSC offers a few relevant online courses, as well as the Family Connector University though the North Seattle College Parent Education Program.
Minor responsibilities for the parents in our coop preschool include…
- classroom set up, which for our coop preschool involves meeting on an assigned date before school starts to get the classroom ready after summer break;
- classroom cleaning, which for our coop preschool involves rotating who cleans up after class and deep cleans on the weekend;
- snack preparation, which for our coop preschool involves rotating who provides a nutritious snack for the children (though recently our coop has also tried out a snack system in which families are responsible for packing their own snacks for their child every class);
- field trip chaperoning for parents in the 3-5s Class, which for our coop preschool involves attending all field trips on a parent’s work day and two or more field trips on non-work days;
- and fundraising, which for our coop preschool typically involves participating in one fundraiser a year to raise money for classroom improvements.
Though coop preschools require more parental involvement than traditional preschools and daycares, they also have many benefits. The monthly tuition is substantially lower than traditional preschools and daycares. And, to ensure that all families can afford to attend even still, scholarships are provided by the NSCCPP Parent Advisory Council and are awarded quarterly.
Because parents assist the teacher in the classroom, the student-to-adult ratio is much lower than traditional preschools and daycares. Parental involvement in class also means parents play a large role in defining their child’s first school experience.
Because of the coop preschool’s affiliation with the NSCCPP, parents are actually considered students at NSC enrolled in a Parent Education/Child Study Laboratory. They can use their NSC student ID card for discounts in many places student discounts are offered. They can also take advantage of NSC student services.
The tight-knit coop preschool community also creates lasting friendships between families. It’s true when they say it takes a village, and a village is just what a coop preschool provides. Even if you work a full- or part-time job, there are ways to make a coop preschool work. Consider sharing responsibilities between your family members, or ask about swapping with other coop families. You’ll likely find the families you lean on the most become some of your closest friends.
For more information about the NSCCPP, please check out their website. If you are interested in coop preschools in other areas of Seattle, check out this list put together by the Program for Early Parent Support.