I'll be honest: when my kids were preschool age, I didn't think they needed school yet. I was full-time with them. So, hrmph. What could a nursery school give them that I couldn't? But I now know that whether or not they needed preschool, the truth is I needed preschool. Or, more specifically, I needed to be a parent at a coop nursery school.
Whether or not you think you might, too, we bring you our series of greater Los Angeles cooperative preschools. We start here with the Westside, but we have similar shout outs to coop preschools in the Valleys and Hollywood/Los Feliz.
Coops require a certain commitment, and they're not for every family. Coop parents "own" the school, in that their volunteer efforts, financial contributions through tuition and fundraising, and participation in membership meetings and on boards and committees are what keep the school humming. Typically, parents are also expected to help in the classroom on a weekly or monthly basis (exceptions are often made for working parents, parents with newborns, etc.). Because of this broad parent participation costs are lower, and tuition is usually less than private preschools.
For me, this experience was a boon. Where else do you get a regular opportunity (alongside your child) to interact with kids of all temperaments, and to learn through regular practice how to confidently navigate conflict? My parenting improved as a result. Enough said! But it wasn't all about me (darn it). My kids benefited, too. Their play-based days meant ample time to ponder, attempt, succeed, and sometimes flop - all in a trusting and vibrant environment, among adults (parents and teachers working cooperatively) who believed the kids were doing exactly what they should be doing. We played and we learned. A lot.
(Note: The tuition rates listed below are for the 2011-12 school year. Tuition may increase for the next school year.)
Crestwood Hills Cooperative Nursery School
986 Hanley Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Size: 18-22 kids per class with 37 students max. at the school at any given time. Two classes are offered in both the morning and afternoon.
Programs: Toddler, Nursery School (ages 3-4), Pre-K (optional extended day for kids in year prior to Kindergarten)
Ages: 2 years 9 months at time of enrollment. Toilet training not required.
Tuition: $7,679 - $10,389 per year; 2.5% discount offered for ACH Debit or check payment; Need-based financial aid available. See Tuition overview for more information.
Hours: Morning 9:15am-12n; Afternoon 12:15pm-3pm
School Year: Programs available Sep-Aug. Pre-K extended day offered Mon-Thu, 12:15pm-4:30pm. During the summer months, school runs Mon-Thu only.
Parent Involvement: Parent must work two times per month per child (and three times if necessary). Must participate in four community work days per year to help maintain building and grounds.
Admission: Applications accepted year-round. $75 application fee. Priority given to dues paying members of the Crestwood Hills Homeowners Association. Next priority given to siblings of enrolled students. See Admissions Overview for more details.
Special Features: Similar to Rustic Canyon, Crestwood Hills is off the beaten LA path. Kids play under the trees and regularly hear the sounds of wildlife in their midst.
La Playa Cooperative Nursery School
5041 Rhoda Way
Culver City, CA 90230
Size: 30 students max. per day. 4:1 child to adult ratio
Ages: 2.5 - 5 years
Tuition: $218 - $409/month, plus one-time $50 registration fee
Hours: Mon-Fri, 9:30am-12:30pm
School Year: Sep-June; 6-week summer program is also offered.
Parent Involvement: Parents must work one day per week, and be available as an alternate one day per month. Parents must also attend monthly membership meetings, help to clean the school two times per year, participate in fundraising activities, and be on either a committee or the Board.
Admission Info: Must attend a tour before applying for admission.
Special Features: (Author's bias: my kids went here.) The teachers are loving and top-notch. Their compassionate commitment to helping and encouraging and listening and guiding boosted my kids' creativity and confidence (not to mention my parenting creativity and confidence).
Little Village Nursery School
11827 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Size: About 40 students in Morning School divided into three different classes depending on age, and 14-18 in Extended Day and Afternoon School combined.
Ages: 2.5 - 5 years (must be 2.5 by August 31, no exceptions)
Programs: Parent and Me (ages 18 mos-36 mos), Morning School (with extended day option), and Afternoon School (must be 3.5 years by first day of enrollment in the Afternoon School, and must be toilet trained)
Tuition: $606/month for 12 months (Note: tuition increases about 3-5% per year.) Additional fees: Approx. $250 per year (includes application fee, financial aid preservation fee, and long term capital improvement fee). Extended Day: $24/day prepaid. Parent and Me: $300 for 10 week session
Hours: Morning School 8:45am-12:30pm with optional extended care 12:30pm-3:30pm; Afternoon School 12:30pm-3:30pm; Parent and Me 9:30am-11:30am Thu OR Fri
School Year: Programs available 12 months.
Parent Involvement: Morning School: Must work one day per month. Afternoon School: Parents in Afternoon School not required to participate in monthly work days. All Parents: Must choose a school job, do 6 hours of school-improvement (clean up) per year, and participate in fundraising activities.
Admission: Must tour the school before applying. Currently accepting applications through the 2014-15 school year.
Rancho Co-Op Nursery School
Cheviot Hills Park
2551 Motor Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Tuition: $2,250/year, plus $500+ for application fees, deposit, insurance, etc.
Parent Involvement: Parents must work one school day per week. One parent from each family must also maintain a member job (hours vary with position), help clean the school twice per year, attend six to seven general meetings per year, and help with the annual garage sale fundraiser.
Rustic Canyon Coop Nursery School
601 Latimer Road
Santa Monica, CA 90402
Size: 17 students max. per day
Ages: Ages 3-5 (must be 3 by June 1 of the entering year)
Tuition: $9,995/year for 5 day enrollment (3 or 4 day enrollment also an option)
School Year: Rustic Canyon follows a traditional school calendar September-June. A separate summer program is also offered.
Parent Involvement: Parents must work roughly one day per month during school hours. In addition, parents must attend monthly parent meetings, serve on a committee or the Board, help clean the school once per school year, and participate in fundraising activities.
Admission Info: The school encourages prospective parents to take a tour before applying. Applications are accepted the year before the child is expected to begin. There is a $75 application fee.
Special Features: The trees! Your kids will "get away from it all" in these sylvan surroundings. The school is on the grounds of Rustic Canyon Park, which means play can spill down the hill (don't worry) when the school day is done. The schoolhouse itself feels like a small log cabin in the woods.
University Parents Nursery School - UPNS
3233 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 200
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Ages: 2-5 years. Children in the 3-4 and 4-5 year classroom must be potty trained.
Tuition: UCLA Affiliate $316-$854/month; Non-UCLA Affiliate $363-$948/month; $200 one-time non-refundable enrollment fee.
Hours: Morning program Mon-Fri, 8:30am-12:30pm; Full day program 8:30am-5:30pm; Afternoon program 1:30pm-5:30pm; Early morning drop-off (7:30am) is available at no extra charge.
Parent Involvement: Parents must work in the classroom two times per month (eight hours total). Parents must also participate in the quarterly school cleaning workshops (four hours each) and attend quarterly parent meetings. Parents are expected to participate in fundraising activities.
Admission Info: There is currently a waiting list. To put your child on the waiting list, you must fill out an application and submit it with a $50 application fee.
Special Features: UPNS caters to the children of UCLA students, faculty and staff, though those not affiliated with UCLA are welcome to apply.
Westchester Parents Nursery School - WPNS
7300 Manchester Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90045
Size: Morning Program: 34 max. Afternoon Program: 24 max.
Programs: Morning and afternoon programs; Pre-K Program; Full day programs. Tuesday afternoon Mommy and Me Program; Thursday afternoon "Stay and Play" available for extra charge.
Ages: 2.5 - 5 years. Must be 2.5 to stay without parent. Toilet training not required. Mommy and Me: 18 mos - 2.5 years
Tuition: $170-$420 per month
Hours: Morning program Mon-Fri, 9:30am-12:30pm; Afternoon program Mon-Wed-Fri, 1pm-4pm; Pre-K (ages 4-5) available 8:30am-10am (students then join the regular morning program at 10am); Mommy and Me Tue afternoons; Toddler "Stay and Play" Thu 1:30pm-3pm
School Year: Sept-June; Summer program also available
Parent Involvement: One parent from each family must work on a school day two to four times per month. Parents must also attend monthly membership meetings, commit 25 hours per year to a "family job" (watering the garden, organizing the library, etc.), and participate in fundraising activities. Parents must also attend a minimum of two parent education meetings per school year.
Admission info.: See website for application details.
Special Features: Hugely loving environment, and lots of fun activities (drama and art, to name a couple). Dedicated staff helps to foster a great sense of community among the coop families.
YWCA Family Cooperative Preschool
2019 14th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Size: 24 students max. 5:1 student teacher ratio.
Ages: 3-5. Some exceptions made for younger children. Decisions are made on an individual basis.
Tuition: $165 - $1,381/month. (Note: a $45 YWCA membership fee is required for each student enrolled. The child may be included in a family membership until the age of 5. Once 5, the child must have an individual membership.) Limited financial aid is available.
Hours: Morning program 8:30am-12:30pm ; Afternoon program 1pm-5pm; Extended morning available until 2:30pm. Full day 8:30am-5:30pm
School Year: Year round
Parent Involvement: Parents are invited to work in the classroom, though it is not required. All parents must contribute hours and items to the annual fundraiser, offer 8 hours of teacher support (filing, planting, helping in classroom, etc.), fulfill 8 hours of classroom and yard maintenance per year, and hold a "family job" (laundry, animal care, join the family advisory board, etc.).
Admission Info.: Applications are accepted year-round. There is a $75 application fee. Limited financial assistance is available.
Special Features: This is a brand new school (it opened in Fall of 2011), and it's magically evolving. All areas of the indoors and outdoors are open to all kids at all times during the school day. Huge outdoor space is intended to eventually be a natural playscape.
Beverly Glen Playgroup
10409 Scenario Lane
Los Angeles, CA 90077
Size: Afternoon: 13 children, 4 teachers; Morning: 24 children, 5 teachers
Ages: Children must be 2 years old by Sept. 1 of the school year for enrollment in the afternoon program, and 3 years old by Sept. 1 for the morning program. Toilet training not required.
Hours: 9am-12:45pm or 2:30pm-4:30pm Extended Day pick-up (Morning Program only): 1:45p.m.
School Year: Programs available Sept-Jun. Morning Program only during the summer.
Parent Involvement: Families must commit to one workday per month, one “on call” sub day per month, and a school job. Parents also participate in a variety of other school tasks such as cleaning/painting the school, driving on field trips and fund raising throughout the year.
Admission: Application are due, with a $75 non-refundable fee and a copy of child’s birth certificate, by Dec. 15. One parent must attend a tour of the school before Dec. 15. Applications received after Dec. 15 are considered late. Selected families are invited for an interview in Jan. or Feb., and will be notified of acceptance or offered a wait list option by March 15. Some priority is given for siblings of enrolled students and residents of Beverly Glen.
Special Features: Tucked away in a quiet residential neighborhood since 1946, Beverly Glen Playgroup endorses a developmental approach to learning, attracting families from Beverly Glen, the Westside, the Valley, and Hollywood. “Playgroup” is a close-knit community.