The church blogger: A Partnership: Parents’ Cooperative School and First UU

Published by Colleen Appel on

There’s a sign in the First UU driveway announcing a Parents’ Cooperative Preschool and Kindergarten (PCPK). They meet in our basement Monday through Friday. What makes this school unique? What does First UU get from the partnership?

PCPK is a cooperative school that encourages family involvement. Each class has its own dedicated teacher, but the helpers are the family members and friends who volunteer two days each month in the classroom. This approach allows members of the child’s circle to see their child learn firsthand.

Founded by a small group of mothers in 1978, PCPK brought to life their vision of a parent-involved educational opportunity. Through the years, they’ve met in a variety of church buildings, private homes, and businesses. Prior to their arrival in our building, they were located in the Itty Bitty City facility.

I asked school director Emily Kavanaugh for more about what makes PCPK unique and how it came to be located in the First UU building. Here is her response:

Part of what contributes to the uniqueness of our program is that we have three certified educators on staff. Myself, my lead preschool teacher and my kindergarten teacher are certified educators and have taught in the public school system before working here at PCPK. 

Our school originally began in connection with Kingsway Church on E. Republic Road. Between changes in rent, Board of Directors, and more, the school has been in numerous locations since those first early years. Most recently, our school was leasing a small room at Itty Bitty City. At that time, we only had one preschool class and one pre-kindergarten class. Itty Bitty City is a phenomenal establishment, and I highly encourage all families with young children to visit it. However, we wanted to expand and return to our roots of having more one-on-one time with an instructor, and our space at IBC limited those possibilities. 

When I began our search for a new space, we initially looked at commercial real estate. However, we found that not only was the market limited in its offerings, but it also limited us in fulfilling the needs we have. I began doing research into area churches that may have space to host our school. I began my search informally by viewing what photos churches had online and on Google Earth. I was immediately drawn to UU because of the lovely grounds that were clearly loved and well-maintained. 

I reached out and was shortly after invited to meet with a few key members via Zoom. I was excited by the possibilities after the meeting. I brought the information to my Board of Directors. From there, we moved forward with viewing the space, scheduling more meetings, and eventually, signing a lease. 

Because of state requirements concerning preschool and school-age children, I, multiple folks from UU, volunteers, and staff from my team buckled down in the 2022 summer to paint, replace ceiling tiles, gather storage supplies, host fundraisers, and more. Working together as a community between UU and PCPK has been an immense blessing to our school and to me personally. 

We have an extensive waitlist now for all of our classes. I strongly believe a large contributing factor to this waitlist being developed is the building and our relationship with UU.

There are obvious financial benefits to renting our space to PCPK, but, in addition, First UU benefits from the following: 1) Our beautiful building gets frequent, regular use instead of standing empty for most of the week. 2) We support the education and formation of children in becoming good humans capable of building a better world. 3) We support an organization whose values align with our own. 4) We get regular, consistent exposure to a group of people who are enthusiastic and engaged, some of whom will visit and become a part of our church community. 

Two parents smile at the camera with their three children. They are sitting at a table with sippy cups in the basement of First UU.

Colin and Kari Jensen and their daughter participate in PCPK. Colin states, “The school first stood out to us because it aligned with a lot of our values: growth mindset, learning through play, authoritative, and not authoritarian discipline. We really enjoy the opportunities to be actively involved in our daughter’s education. The more we get involved with the school, the more we appreciate how down-to-earth and accessible the staff are.” 

The Jensen family also attends services at First UU. Colin says he doesn’t remember if they found the church or the preschool first, but it must have been pretty close to the same time, and it turned out to be a happy coincidence.

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