The former Community Club/voting site building in Victory Heights Park has been used as one of North Seattle Community College’s Co-operative Preschools for at least 40 years now. (Nobody is quite sure exactly when it started however, no documentation exists prior to 1982 but Program Coordinator Val Donato says, “I know there was a group there prior to me starting in 1974.”) Though the Community College provides teachers and materials, it is the parents who really run the show and are expected to put in time during classes each day. These parents (one per family) rotate through assigned tasks including playground supervision or providing the daily snacks, plus hold a permanent position throughout the school year such as safety officer, or parent coordinator.
There are four classes available depending on the age of the child: toddlers, Pre-3s, 3-4s, and 4-5s. The older children attend more days a week than toddlers. You don’t have to live in Victory Heights to belong to the Co-op, but registration for newcomers must be done through the Community College (read their webpage for full details on applying). As children age, they automatically can graduate to the next older class. Legacies are available for younger siblings of former students.
In addition to activities, playground time, and readings, the children learn to be with other groups of children on a routine basis, and often will see the same people as they move on to elementary school.
While the Seattle Parks Department maintains the exterior building, the grounds, and playground equipment, the parents refurbish and maintain the interior of the building. They would like to have the jungle gym replaced but Parks says Victory Heights is not on the list. Instead, parents are hoping a fundraising effort might be able to pay for one if possible.
In addition to tuition fees ($70-$180, depending on how many days a week their child’s class meets), parents technically are registered as students at North Seattle, pay a small tuition each quarter and receive credits.
Often, parents stay at the Co-operative and become teachers long after their children have moved on. Karen Truelove (her “house” is now a play area–see photo at top) was a teacher for many decades (with a long waiting list until she retired). Teacher Marianne has also been at Victory Heights for many years and encourages daily playtime outside for the children rain or shine. (By the way, the orange barriers set up when the kids are outside are merely to keep them IN, not the public out. You are free to walk through the park or use the equipment with your kids even when the preschoolers are playing, the Co-op can’t close park.)
Victory Heights is one of over 40 Co-operative Preschools in 13 sites operated by North Seattle Community College, but each one is an autonomous 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The first such Co-op is believed to have been started in the University District after World War II, but Victory Heights is one of the oldest in the area.
According to city records, Victory Heights Park was originally named by the Victory Heights Community Club. The district name originated during WWI. They bought the property and provided volunteer leadership after its development by the W.P.A. But they were unable to pay taxes and it was bought by the city in 1954 (see a pdf document from the city’s Sherwood Historic Files).
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