Stinson preschool pleads for district

11/14/2013

The Stinson Beach Montessori Preschool is continuing a search for a new location as it prepares for its eviction from a shared space with the Bolinas-Stinson Unified School District next summer.

Since 2004, the privately operated preschool has rented a classroom on the Stinson campus for roughly $5,500 annually, said Susan Tacherra, the longtime director and head teacher. The district’s first and second grades, meanwhile, were combined in one room. 

Due to increasing enrollment and curriculum changes, the school district needs to reclaim the space for its students, board members said. But their decision leaves the score of families with children at the preschool without a school next year. A meeting will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 6 p.m. at the preschool to brainstorm ideas for the future.

For the past several years, the district’s board of trustees has debated whether to extend the preschool’s lease. Last year, the district expected it would have sufficient space by housing the second grade in an extra room on the Bolinas campus, but a last-minute decision from the fire marshal prohibited the shift, cramming classrooms for another year.

“This is going to be the last year,” Superintendent Larry Enos said. “We’re not going to do what we did last summer. It was a lot of jumping around.”

The school’s enrollment is projected to increase from 118 to 123 next year, Mr. Enos said at Tuesday’s regular board meeting, though there will only be one additional student in grades K-2. 

Crowded classrooms have solicited complaints from parents and teachers alike. As the district implements Common Core standards, teachers have complained that the simultaneous instruction of two curriculums in a classroom of 30 kids has been “not the most ideal,” he added.

Earlier this year, trustees authorized a special Pre-school for All Task Force committee, to consider incorporating the two private preschools, Stinson Beach Preschool and the Bolinas Children’s Center. Their studies of feasibility have been funded by a $25,000 grant funded by Proposition 10, a tobacco tax, and their findings will be presented to the board in March.

Some have been disappointed with the committee’s broad focus, criticizing the discussions for being too theoretical when one preschool is facing the possibility of displacement within months.

When Jennie Pfeiffer became an alternate trustee on the committee, she thought they would discuss solutions for the children’s immediate problems. “It has not nearly been that. I feel as though the work has been very theoretical and not based in reality. We’re not getting to the place we need to get to for these kids, these very real kids,” she said. “I feel like we’re really turning our heads.”

The preschool administration is considering multiple options for next year, but after years of searching, they have found no positive results. They are inquiring about renting a private home or space from a business, but in the past, many have not been properly licensed to function as a school. Transporting thousands of dollars in the preschool’s equipment will be yet another obstacle, Ms. Tacherra said. The ideal solution would be to stay close to campus, where teachers and students have profited from collaboration, she added.

At the Tuesday meeting, several trustees cited benefits they were sad to lose as the lease to the preschool comes to an end. Mixing classes provided a seamless transition between different grades, allowing students to work to an individual pace, said Arianne Dar, the board president.

Ms. Tacherra asked the district to address the preschool’s situation at the next meeting. “We need help. We are a bunch of volunteer mothers and fathers who are busy with our children, our job and our daily life,” she said. “It’s a really big task to reestablish a school.” She hopes they will aid in finding a new location, and could potentially use any leftover funding for the task force toward that goal.

Perhaps in the future, she said, education will be supported, regardless of age, she added.