By Jack Rubinger
After 25 years of calling the Presbyterian Church of Laurelhurst home, the Portland Tillamook Cooperative Preschool must relocate. In October, the Tillamook Board of Directors received notice that the school must vacate their classroom at the end of this school year. “We are saddened and truly grieving the loss of our amazing space,” said Anne Lagasse, Tillamook Board President. Throughout the years, families have collaborated to create and contribute to a learning space designed to fit its surroundings.
Over the past 50 years, Tillamook has evolved into a mixed-age, play-based preschool focused on supporting children and their families. The idea for the preschool came about in 1973 when a few neighbors gathered together to build a community of parents dedicated to hands-on involvement with their child’s education.
Initially starting in a house on NE Tillamook St., the preschool has grown to encompass a large community of families who are united in their dedication to the emotional, social, physical and intellectual development of their children. “We believe that Tillamook’s longevity is a testament to the commitment and involvement of our community members,” said Lagasse.
“We need your help in our search for a new home. We’re currently actively looking in the North, NE and SE areas of Portland. We are hopeful that our collective efforts will result in a successful relocation and keep Tillamook going for another 50 years strong,” said Lagasse. The current space has 1,500 square feet with a large lawn and playground area. Immediate access to outdoors, lots of natural light, bathrooms for kids and sinks for art are also important. She explained that families should be willing to drive.
Teacher Anette Horten has been with the kids and families for 20 years. “The dream is to have a good outside space that’s above ground with lots of natural light, like an outside extension of our classroom,” said Horten, who admired the now closed Opal School which used to be located at the Children’s Museum.
Tillamook accepts applications for children who are at least two years and eight months old to five years old on their first day of school. Children need to turn three on or before December 31 and not turn six during the school year. Up to 19 children are enrolled in a class. Each day, in addition to one teacher, there are at least three parent helpers present for the duration of the class day. This results in an approximate ratio of one adult for every four children.
Families in the two-day class are asked to help about one to two times per month. Families in the three-day class are asked to help about two to three times per month. On parent helping days, parents are asked to be at the school to help from 8:30 am until approximately 12:45 pm.
Preschool is a short, but critical window in a family’s life. Everything is new and exciting, and long-term relationships are often forged. In some cases, parents welcome the separation and the time away from their kids, even for a short time. Some kids are overwhelmed emotionally and physically. It’s the beginning of a long road for parents filled with decisions about education, play, logistics, cost and time.
For those who’ve been through the experience, there are poignant memories of singing, snacks or the kid who loved playing with blocks and was perfectly happy doing that all day. But envisioning life past these few years is tough to do when you’re in the middle of it. Who can you rely on for help?
Roz Ramberg’s daughter Genevieve is in the two-day class. She loves the school because of the parental involvement and the community vibe. “Teacher Anette has helped me be a better parent,” said Ramberg. “She makes you feel you’re not alone with your personal challenges and issues with your kid.”
Ramberg shared that being in the Laurelhurst neighborhood is a big draw. “The thought of not knowing where we’re going to be is filling our family with uncertainty. Are we going back to square one? Will there be a place for us?,” she said.
To support efforts to find a new location, families are posting on Facebook and using social media to draw attention to their situation. “It’s hard and expensive to find real estate that offers outdoor space,” said Ramberg. “We’ve loved the many opportunities for kids to explore, scoop sand and beans, dress up and play with animals, trains and cars. Tillamook is a very magical space,” she said. “Teacher Anette loves the kids so much. They even have a special rose garden dedicated to a student that passed away.”
Horten, the one and only employee, believes it’s important to foster independent spirit and allow kids to self-regulate. Anne Paulson, whose five-year-old son Willie is in his second year at Tillamook, was drawn to the school’s play-lead style and the autonomy the children are given. She’s on the relocation committee and she plans to continue to help at the school. “This has been a wonderful experience and we’ve learned so much from all the families and friends we’ve met,” she said. “Teacher Anette believes in the kid’s voices. She’s great at conflict resolution and she’s super sweet.”
If you know of a space that may work, contact Anne Lagasse at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 503.830.3946.
Playing with dyed popcorn kernels encourages development of motor skills, and fosters problem solving, sharing and conflict resolution. Photo by Tillamook Cooperative Preschool.