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Preschool to stick around another year

Fundraising campaign extended as major donor drops out

The Mountain View Parent Nursery School delayed plans to break ground and move in to a vacant lot neighboring Oak Elementary this summer. The preschool will continue to teach kids for another year at their Mountain View High School location, and extend their relocation fundraising efforts for another month.

The preschool staff had planned to start the move as early as this summer. But according to Claire Koukoutsakis, director at the Mountain View Parent Nursery School, they were ill-prepared to move over so quickly. The utilities, including pipes and electricity, haven't been set up at the new site, and going through the process with PG&E will take months, she said.

After several meetings with Mountain View Los-Altos School District administrators, the preschool worked out a deal to continue their stay at Mountain View High School's campus until next year, when they plan to uproot and leave for a vacant lot adjacent to the Foothill Covenant Church.

Associate Superintendent Laura Stefanski said that the district will delay any plans they had for the soon-to-be vacant parcel for another year as well.

And the school might need the time too. Their fundraising goal nearly doubled -- from $200,000 to $380,000 -- last month. According to Marie Faust Evitt, a teacher at the preschool, they relied on expected funding from an "outside source" when they came up with the $200,000 figure. That source has since told the school they will not be able to help fund the project.

Preschool parent Cathy Rohloff said the uptick in the local economy caused bids to come in higher than they expected, which also brought up the fundraising goal. The total cost of the project is estimated at $830,000.

The school extended the fundraiser deadline to June 30 to cope with the changes, and Evitt said they're off to a good start. Late last month the school received an anonymous $80,000 donation, putting them over halfway to their contribution goal.

Rohloff said fundraising money will be used to install utilities, landscape, pour foundations, relocate two portable classrooms and purchase a new, third classroom for parent education meetings. She said the fundraiser ending by July gives the school a head start on setting up the new site.

The people who run the fundraiser are all volunteer parents involved with the Mountain View Parent Nursery School. Salila Sukumaran, who has a background in sales and marketing, said they based the fundraiser on a "crowdfunding" model with rewards based on the amount donated. She said they could have started a Kickstarter campaign, but she had a feeling they wouldn't get much traction with donations from strangers.

Instead, Sukumaran focused on the preschool's existing parent and alumni base. She was able to compile a list of names and contact info for thousands of parents, some of which were involved with the school 30 to 35 years ago. With emails and social media, Sukumaran said the goal is to bring as much awareness to the campaign as possible.

If the fundraiser falls short on June 30, the school staff will come up with a new plan. But both parents and teachers, including Koukoutsakis, are confident they will make it.

Rohloff said it's inspirational to see all the support from people who want to keep the legacy of the school going. She said she wants to preserve that feeling parents get when they're with their kids at the school, away from the hustle and bustle of the Bay Area.

"It's not your everyday, busy Silicon Valley lifestyle when you walk through that door," Rohloff said.

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