Oswego Playschool is tucked away in the quiet and charming First Addition residential neighborhood of Lake Oswego, Oregon. The school, which is in it's 65th year of operation, has provided the first educational experience for several generations of local families, which was the topic of an article recently published in the Lake Oswego Review.
Amber Batchelder, a parent at OP, answered questions about the school with help from
co-Presidents Kristina Johnson and Niki Crose, and 2-Day Teacher Phoebe Fillmore:
Q: It appears that OP is located in a residential area. Can you describe the setting?
A: Oswego Playschool is in the historic First Addition neighborhood of downtown Lake Oswego, OR. We are fortunate to own our property from a generous alumni donation by John and Betty Gray in the 1950's. Betty was very involved in the early years of OP. Many families have helped renovate over the years to create such a welcoming and engaging learning environment. Walking into OP feels like you're going to someone's home. I think that's one reason some children have an easier transition. Also, it's very quaint and beautiful, lined with old trees, library and park nearby.
Q: What is it that you feel makes Oswego Playschool unique?
A: One of the most special aspects of Oswego Playschool is the community we have created over the years. Everyone is welcome, included, and loved at our school. It is such a special place because of the friendships and bonds we are able to create with each family, all of the students, and our wonderful teachers. It is a place where students can grow and learn but also where parents and children can build friendships that last well beyond the preschool years - we have a strong community with relationships that can last a lifetime!
Much of the reason we are able to have such a tight-knit and strong community is because of our history. We are one of the oldest cooperative preschools in the state - 65 years is a huge accomplishment for a small, non-profit co-op playschool! Over 65 years we have been able to grow and improve but have also maintained our core values. For decades families in the local community have been able to trust Oswego Playschool to be an inclusive environment where children are free to be the creative, great thinkers we know they are.
I would say OP is unique because it is such a tight-knit, inclusive community. Families join and have an instant "village." Working together in the classroom lets families really connect and get to know each other. Teacher Teenie has a saying "You come for your kids, but you stay for yourself and the friendships you create."
Q: Both of your teachers have a background in cooperative education. Why is that important?
A: As a play based preschool, we believe children learn best through play. It's up to the teacher to set the environment in order for children to learn best on that stage. Play should not be something a teacher tells them to go and do, but an avenue to learn through play. Our teachers are masters at guiding children in learning and are often surprised at the outcome of what the children produce!
While volunteering in the classroom, there have been many smiles and laughs over the creativity and the alternate path the children lead us down.
The teachers' cooperative education background gives them an understanding and deeper connection to parents because they've been in our shoes before. Their compassion and longevity teaching at our school strengthens our community. At our 65th anniversary party over the summer, many alumni families were so excited to see Teacher Teenie and Pheobe and share wonderful, heartfelt memories.
Q: How do you go about attracting new families to the school?
A: Many families are referred to us by word of mouth at library story times, baby and mom groups, and parks. We participate in many community activities like the Lake Oswego Festival for the Arts children's day, Fourth of July parade, and Lake Oswego Moms Club Preschool Forum. Also, many families try out the Parent and Tot class and continue until they graduate OP.
Q: How has your school evolved over the 65 years you've been in operation?
A: One of the most wonderful things about OP is that it has grown over the past 65 years but has not changed. We are still operating out of the building that was donated and built to be our playschool. We have kept history books, photographs, and memories from the 1950's up until today and we have put a lot of emphasis on staying true to the values and mission set forth by the founding families of our school.
We have evolved to be an inclusive environment for our community and always strive to be a strong representative of our local community population. We have made improvements to our building to accommodate more families, we have updated our landscaping with loving care and consideration from past members, we have introduced new programs such as music and yoga to our classroom, and this past summer we completed a complete backyard play space renovation. Our first priority and constant consideration is in creating the best and most developmentally appropriate environment for our students - we strive to evolve and grow while always keeping in mind the best ways we can encourage students to learn through exploration, creativity, cooperation, and play.
The school has changed in so many ways over the years, but is still exactly the same! Students come back to visit 20, 30, or 40 years later and say it's just like they remember it. I believe that is because we still live by the same philosophy the school was founded on. Yet, we are constantly updating, tweaking, and improving how we do things. Any changes we make, we do with the spirit of OP in mind. It's important to me to remember where we came from while we are moving forward. It's how we honor those who created this place for us to still be using today.
Q: Do you run a summer program?
A: We don't currently run a summer program, but the 2- and 3- day classes get together for a weekly
park playdate over the summer. The teachers use this time to hold at home visits with families to get to know them before school starting. Also, it strengthens our community and allows families to get to know each other better.
Q: What are the most significant challenges your school has faced, and how have you overcome them?
A: The biggest challenges the school has faced over the years are membership and fundraising. Because we own our building and property, we have a huge responsibility to physically maintain it. In years past this has been a huge sacrifice for parents to make sure we have a new roof and that the furnace is working. We try to be fiscally responsible and plan ahead for any capital improvements so that we are prepared when they come up. And we are continually working to build and strengthen our school community. We offer many opportunities for parents to get together once a month without kids (brunch, movie, trivia night), parent development workshops throughout the year, play dates one day a week on off school days (zoo, park, library). We fundraise throughout the year with restaurant nights, pie sales, yard sales, and an auction in the spring.