Co-op preschool celebrates 50 years in Mountain View | March 29, 2019 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - March 29, 2019

Co-op preschool celebrates 50 years in Mountain View

by Kevin Forestieri

Teachers, parents and alumni of the Mountain View Parent Nursery School are planning to commemorate the school's 50th anniversary with a party celebrating its decades of serving children despite facing challenges and displacement.

Although few things seem to last for half a century in the rapidly changing city of Mountain View, the parent cooperative has remained a fixture for families seeking a preschool with high parent involvement and relatively low-cost.

Along with birthday cake and an entertainer to keep the celebration lively, the event planned on Sunday, March 31, will give alumni and their families a chance to peruse old photos of the school and visit the new campus on Oak Avenue in Los Altos, across the street from Mountain View High School.

Vinita Alwyn, a parent at the Mountain View Parent Nursery School, said families from all walks of life in Mountain View, Los Altos and Sunnyvale have come to deeply value the preschool, and the festivities will be a chance to celebrate the parents, teachers and staff who have kept it alive.

"It's a chance to acknowledge everything that's gone into keeping this school thriving for so long," Alwyn said.

The school originally launched on El Monte Avenue in 1959 when a group of parents, who had moved to the area, wanted to emulate prior experiences with a cooperate preschool, according to Claire Koukoutsakis, the school's long-time director. The school has moved three times since then, somehow surviving each time, she said.

The latest move wasn't easy. The Mountain View Parent Nursery School was housed on land owned by the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District, adjacent to Mountain View High and the district office. The district has been growing for years and needed to use the land, displacing the preschool in 2015. It took a multi-year fundraiser that rallied parents and community members together to help pay for the move, raising $380,000 to construct the new campus at 1535 Oak Ave.

"We've gone through challenges," Koukoutsakis said. "I really believe we have such a committed group of alumni and parents who have been through the program and who believe the school has made a difference in peoples' lives."

The relocation effort may have been the most recent occasion that brought the school's tight-knit community together, but it wasn't the first time. When beloved preschool teacher Tim Dobbin's house burned down in 2011, women in the preschool quietly began putting money into a special bank account to help him and his family. The donors were anonymous and Dobbins declined to reveal the amount they raised, but needless to say it was enough for him to find a new home.

These challenges didn't always garner media attention. Since she joined in 1990, Koukoutsakis said there's been an abundance of support at the school for parents with cancer, help with new babies, carpooling and making meals for families in need. Parents are always ready to volunteer more time in the classroom when others are ill, she said.

Dobbins recently retired after working at the school for 25 years — an anomaly at many preschools, but not at the Parent Nursery School. Tenure among preschool teachers is typically short due to high burnout rates and low pay, but the school has enjoyed decades of longterm teaching staffers.

Parents say working at the school is an antidote to the fast pace of Silicon Valley, forcing them to slow down and appreciate the preschool environment. Koukoutsakis said she calls it a chance to stop and smell the roses, and enjoy hearing the excitement over something as simple as a snail or playing with worms in a compost bin.

"You're forced to sit and just listen, or read books to a group of children or facilitate an activity and listen to the children's thoughts."

Alwyn counts herself among the parents lucky enough to get a front row seat during an important part of her daughter's life, watching her learn and grow through play, an important tenet of the Parent Nursery School.

"I know it's cliche but it's really been a golden year for us — I have loved having her in this school in a play-based environment, and being able to participate in her schooling has been priceless for me," she said.

The Sunday, March 31, anniversary party will be held from 2-4 p.m. in the Alta Vista High School multipurpose room, located at 1325 Bryant Ave. The event is free and attendees are asked to RSVP at http://tinyurl.com/mvpns30.

Email Kevin Forestieri at kforestieri@mv-voice.com

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