Hudson Valley Parent

HVP - March 2014

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34 Hudson Valley Parent n March 2014 Is a co-op preschool right for you? Perks include lower tuition, higher involvement By MADELAINE HAYES When my son turned three and became eligible to enroll in nursery school, I had no idea which school I should choose. I ended up enrolling my son in the preschool closest to our home, which happened to be the Pleasant Valley Cooperative Nursery School. Wait, I thought, a coopera- tive nursery school? What did that even mean? A cooperative nursery school is a non-profit, non-sectarian organi- zation owned and administered by the parents of the children enrolled. Each family is involved in the op- eration of the school, which may include attending general member- ship meetings, volunteering in the classroom, participating in fundrais- ing, and even sitting on the execu- tive board. Some co-ops even have parents teaching the classes on a rotating ba- sis. Others, like the Pleasant Valley Cooperative Nursery School, employ professional teachers and assistants to develop the curriculum and teach the classes. "The Pleasant Valley co-op is a school that is run by the parents," explains school director Lisa Antho- ny. "Everyone works together with I get to volunteer my time and interact with my children.' — Jennifer Giorgi, Poughkeepsie the common goal of making our school the best possible place for our children. Enrolling your child in one of our programs is a wonderful way to enjoy your child's first educational experience together." The executive board of parents is elected by the general membership, and spearheads all the school's ef- forts, including fundraising. Fund- raising plays a large role within the cooperative model. Generally, tui- tion at a cooperative is much lower than at a traditional nursery school. The fundraising offsets the price of tuition, keeping early education much more affordable. Parents who choose a cooperative nursery school may do so for a num- ber of reasons. Some, like myself, may (initially) choose the school based on location. Others choose a co-op because they want to be more involved in their child's early educa- tional experience. "As a working parent, I was worried about how I was going to participate in my son's preschool experience," says Christie Alfaro of Pleasant Valley. "I couldn't drop him off in the morning or pick him up in the afternoon, so I felt that I was not going to be able to witness or view his experience." The cooperative model allowed Alfaro the chance to join the school's executive board and to volunteer at special events. "I've also had the chance to help shape the future direction of the school," she says. "It's rare for a parent to be able to provide not only feedback but to affect true changes and improvements. I also really love the idea of supporting an organiza- tion that has been a part of our local community for more than 35 years." For mother of two Sophia Skiles, the decision to enroll her kids in Hu- guenot Street Cooperative Nursery Ron and Madelaine Hayes join their son, Billy, 4, in the "4s" classroom at the Pleasant Valley Co- operative Nursery School. Hayes was initially attracted to the cooperative school because of its proximity to her house, but soon found it was a wonderful alternative to traditional preschool.

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