What is a Cooperative Preschool?

Children walking across street into Providence Nursery School with teachers
"Art Gallery" in the halls of PNS displaying student art
3/4's class teacher sitting in front of class with post-its on her

A cooperative preschool is a school established and run by like-minded parents who wish to give their children an excellent preschool experience. The parents hire the teachers, negotiate the lease, determine the cost for tuition, and develop and create the program they want. Teachers use their expertise in child development and other fields to create the curriculum and daily schedules that reflect the best and most up-to-date practices. Parents and teachers work collaboratively to maintain licensure requirements.

Providence Nursery School has been a cooperative preschool since 1971. So, as a parent looking at our school today, you don't have to start from the ground up in building a school community! Our teachers and aides have been with us for years, and families tend to stick around for all of their children to get through the preschool years (that's sometimes 10 years!). PNS has routines, schedules, and traditions that we hold dear, all built around what parents want and have wanted for their children across the past 50 years.

Because cooperative preschools are truly parent-run, it does require more time and engagement from parents than a traditional preschool program. Teachers are the only paid employees of our school, which means parents are responsible for a variety of things from stocking the art center to determining the annual budget. We often rely on the expertise of parents to grow our school, and greatly benefit from the wide variety of families that attend. That being said, we understand that everyone's situation may be a little different- because we are living it too! Please reach out to our parent board members VP Enrollment or President if you have concerns to discuss your particular situation and see how we can make it work for you and your family!

Another term you have probably heard about cooperative preschools is "co-op." This, at least for PNS, refers to the time parents serve as aides in their child's classroom. With parents volunteering as aides, we are able to keep our tuition costs lower. Plus parents get the benefit of seeing their child in their classroom with their friends, learn the teaching and behavioral strategies the teacher uses, and get a front row seat to the growth and development of their child!

For more information about cooperative preschools in general, please visit the Virginia Cooperative Preschool Council's website.