If you want to play a hands-on role in your child's early education, then a cooperative preschool might be the right choice for you. Westchester is home to several co-op nursery schools, where parents help with everything from providing snacks to assisting in the classroom to serving on committees and boards.
Co-ops are tight-knit communities in which parents and educators work hand-in-hand to create a loving and creative learning environment. Because cooperative preschools are run with help from parent volunteers, tuition costs are typically lower than those of preschools operated entirely with paid staff.
Read on to learn about seven cooperative preschools in Westchester, and get more info in our School and Preschool Guide for Westchester Kids.
The focus on parent participation is rooted in the schools' beginnings, in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, when small groups of parents got together to start informal programs and playgroups for their young children. Most of these programs started at local churches, and while some of the schools remain in church buildings today, all of them are nonsectarian and open to families of all faiths.
Hands-on learning is the focus at Briarcliff Nursery School.
Briarcliff Nursery School – Ossining
Founded in 1947, Briarcliff is a parent-cooperative preschool that offers classes for 2-, 3-, and 4-year-olds. Parents can volunteer in the school, help out with school-related tasks from home, or opt out of participation for an additional fee. The school day runs from 9–11:55am.
Croton Community Nursery School welcomes children ages 1-5.
Croton Community Nursery School – Croton-on-the-Hudson
CCNS held its first class in September 1945, and today it offers classes for ages 2, 3, and Pre-K (4-5), as well as a Toddling Tots program for babies 12-24 months. Pre-K classes are held in the afternoons, five days a week.
Hastings Nursery School – Hastings
Known as "The Co-op," Hastings Nursery School was founded in 1968 by a small group of parents holding classes at Hastings' Grace Church. Today, the school offers classes for ages 2–4, and the school day runs from 8:45–11:30am. Early drop-off and extended-day options are available as well.
Interacting with the environment is part of learning at Mamaroneck Community Nursery School.
Mamaroneck Community Nursery School – Mamaroneck
Founded in the 1950s by a group of mothers from United Methodist Church, MCNS is a nonsectarian school with programs for 2-, 3-, and 4 & 5-year-olds. The school offers morning, afternoon, and full-day sessions (dependent on the child's age), as well as extended-day options.
Tarrytown Nursery School – Tarrytown
This school got its start in the summer of 1949, when a group of moms organized a playgroup and took turns watching each other's children once a week. Today, the school offers programs for ages 2–4. Half-day, full-day, and 9am–6pm options are available.
Torbank Nursery School – Ossining
Two Ossining moms got the idea for a school in the summer of 1956, and they held the first classes that fall, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Now located in the Ethical Society building on Pinesbridge Road, Torbank has programs for ages 2–4. Morning sessions only.
Yorktown Community Nursery School – Yorktown Heights
Yorktown Community Nursery School was founded in 1948, and since then it has grown from a one-group, one-teacher school to a cooperative school with five groups, 74 students, five staff members, and its own building. The school offers half-day sessions for ages 2–4.
Photos courtesy of the preschools.