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July 18, 2016 
Vol. 46 No. 8
Cooperatively Speaking
The Latest News from PCPI

Hello Again! 

One of the things I find to be so fascinating about cooperative schools is how unique each school and each program is.  The common thread of parents and teachers working together seems to exist in infinite variations.  

Once a month, Cooperatively Speaking will feature a profile of one of our member schools to highlight those characteristics that make each of our schools distinct as well as those that we share by virtue of being a co-op.   Would you like your school to be featured in a profile?  Please let me know!    

Warmest wishes,

Dianne Rose
Editor, Cooperatively Speaking

PCPI Member School Profile
Hunters Woods Preschool
Reston, Virginia

Reston is a relatively new place by historical standards.  An innovative planned
community on the perimeter o f the Washington DC metropolitan area, Reston was designed to be a self-contained community where people could live, work, learn and play.  But as the inhabitants of this new town started to move in, they quickly realized that something was missing.  A group of neighborhood moms came together in 1970 and created Hunters Woods Cooperative Preschool (HWPS).

Lois Male was a guiding force at HWPS from the beginning.  She came to the school as a parent the year the school opened, and became a teacher in year two.  After 45 years of dedicated service to the children and families of  Reston, Mrs. Male retired in May, 2016.  While she is no longer officially affiliated with HWPS, she will continue to provide advice and guidance to the teachers and director whom  she ha s been nurturing for many years.

HWPS teachers and director with Mrs. Male at her retirement party.
Lois Male with statue of Robert E. Simon_ the founder of Reston
Lois Male with the statue of Reston's founder, Robert E. Simon.

HWPS offers a multi-age (3's and 4's) class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings from 9:00 am - 11:30 am and a 4's class Tuesday through Friday afternoons from 12:30 pm - 3:00 pm. The classes are play based and follow the interests of the children.

Over the years HWPS programs have changed as the population of the community and the needs of parents have changed.  Participation in a co-op has become more challenging for families who are more likely than in the past to have two working parents.  As the district has moved to full-time kindergarten, parents are increasingly interested in more preschool time for their children.  

Last year, HWPS dropped a 3's class on Tuesday and Thursday mornings after several years of low enrollment.  One hour "Mommy and Me" style classes for 2's were added in the open Tuesday/Thursday morning time slot. The Play Time classes were met with great excitement among families, and they quickly filled.  Adding the 2's program was a great benefit to the school as Play Time helped to bring parents in and introduce them to the idea of a co-op, which led to increased enrollment in the three day and four day classes this year.

Play Time class - the newest addition at HWPS

Family Engagement
At HWPS family representatives volunteer in the classroom and serve on the board of directors and on various committees.  In each class there is one teach er and three adult family member volunteers working with 20 children. Volunteers include parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, and nannies depending on the needs of each family. Volunteers are encouraged to share their interests and talents in the classroom. 

Students "watching TV" at school
all accounts, HWPS is a low-tech environment.  The school doesn't have computers, iPads, or even wifi access, and there is agreement among parents and staff that giving the kids a place to play that is fairly technology-free is an asset. But some pieces of technology have been implemented outside of the classroom to help keep families in touch and engaged.

Teachers and volunteers are encouraged to use cameras in the classroom.  To keep family members touch with classroom happenings during the times when they aren't in school, each teacher sets up a private Facebook page where photos and stories can be shared. HWPS also distributes a monthly newsletter through MailChimp to keep families informed about school-wide happenings.  In the last few years, the school has used VolunteerSpot (now called SignUp.com) online to manage classroom helper scheduling. 

HWPS is cooperative on many levels.  The school operates in the fashion of a one-room school house in a community facility rented from Reston Association (RA), Reston's homeowner's association and managing entity.  The rental deal was struck at the time the community building was under construction in 1970, and the relationship provides an extremely generous rental agreement that helps to keep tuition very low.  RA takes care of all building maintenance and nightly cleaning, and they provide summer storage space for school equipment.  The classroom is on the upper level of a pool house, so the school schedule is somewhat dictated by the pool operation schedule - school starts after the pool closes on Labor Day, and the school year ends just before the pool opens on Memorial Day.

Because HWPS operates in one room, and the room is often rented out to other groups in the evenings, teachers work closely to share materials and activities and to keep "stuff" to a minimum.  The morning teacher moves all of the school materials and furniture out of a storage closet before the day can begin.  In the 45 minutes between the end of the morning class and the arrival of parent volunteers for the afternoon class, the classroom is turned over from one teacher to another and rearranged.  At the end of the day, the afternoon teacher packs everything back in to storage.
The HWPS classroom.  All of the furniture - even the piano - goes to storage every night.

Cooperatively Speaking with friends!

We'd like to reach as many readers as we can.  PCPI welcomes parents and staff of member schools, councils, and libraries.  There are lots of ways to share Cooperatively Speaking:
  • Forward this message to your school or council network email list
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To submit an article or idea, please email pcpinewsletter@gmail.com.  Thanks!


Parent Cooperative Preschools International (PCPI)