Jan 142015
 

We are currently accepting applications for the 2015/2016 school year. With that in mind, here is a list of Frequently Asked Questions. Email us at admissions@oakhurstcoop.com to set up a tour or with any questions about our school.

Q: How is a cooperative preschool different from a traditional preschool?
A: Oakhurst Cooperative Preschool (OCP) is a non-profit parent cooperative overseen by a board of parent volunteers. The school is operated by the parents and staffed by a director and professional teachers. Co-op members serve on the board of directors and on committees. They make budget decisions, hire staff, and set policies. Members also help out in day-to-day ways. Parents rotate certain daily responsibilities. For example, parent-teachers assist in the classrooms and rotate the responsibility of bringing a daily snack.

Q: Is there more work involved in a cooperative preschool?
A: For parents, the time commitment is significant but not burdensome. Parents report that they enjoy their work within the co-op because they make a meaningful contribution to their child’s education, form lasting friendships with other families and have the opportunity to learn new skills.

Q: What are the responsibilities of each family?
A: Each family is responsible for four things: tuition, serving as a parent-teacher, serving on a committee, and completing three work days per year. Our tuition schedule is located here: http://oakhurstcoop.com/admissions/tuition-schedule. Your parent-teacher days are divided among the other parents in your class; for example, if there are 8 students in your class, you will be the parent-teacher (PT) every 8 class sessions. Our committees run the operations of the school and are listed out here: http://oakhurstcoop.com/co-op/committees. Each committee meets once per month and assigns tasks to each member. Our work days are how we keep our school running. Work day opportunities consist of working booths at neighborhood events, maintaining the grounds, setting up our family events, working a book fair, and volunteering for our annual 5K road race, Beat the Street for Little Feet held in May.

Q: What is the makeup of each class?
A: Each class has a professional teacher, a parent teacher, and a number of students based on the age of the class. Our 2-year old classes have 6-7 students. Our 3-year-old classes have 8 students. Our 4-year-old/Pre-K class has a professional teacher, a professional teacher’s assistant 3 days per week, and parent teachers fill in the remaining 2 days per week. This class has less parental involvement in order to help better prepare our students for their next school experience…kindergarten!

Q: What are your hours? Are you a full-day program?
A: Our school hours are 9am-12:45pm. We do offer an enrichment class that goes until 1:30pm that is open to potty-trained 3- and 4-year-olds. We offer 2-day programs (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and 3-day programs (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) for our 2- and 3-year old classes. We offer 3, 4, or 5-day programs for our 4-year-old classes.

Q: What is the youngest age you accept?
A: Our youngest 2-year-old class requires students to be age 2 by September 1st.

Q: Where are you located?
A: We are located in the Oakhurst neighborhood in Decatur, GA. Our building is right behind Thankful Baptist Church located on West College Avenue.

Q: What sort of outside play space do you have?
A: We have a lovely play area located adjacent to our school, affectionately known as the Play Garden. It is a fully enclosed space designed by a landscape architect to uphold our core values – a cooperative, green, learning environment. We spend a good amount of time each class day outside (rain or shine!) where the students can ride tricycles, play in the sand area or play house, race around the sidewalk, stroll through our natural garden, or help water their class’s garden plots.

Q: What curriculum do you use?
A: We carefully selected the open and flexible framework of the Creative Curriculum and integrated key elements of other well-known curricula (Reggio-Emilia, Waldorf, Montessori) to create a unique learning experience for young children.

Q: Sounds great! How do I apply?
A: Complete the application (http://oakhurstcoop.com/admissions/new-family-applications) and send in a non-refundable application fee of $75. For a list of our upcoming tours, please visit our admissions page (http://oakhurstcoop.com/admissions/admissions-overview). Email admissions@oakhurstcoop.com with any questions, as we are all very excited to talk about our school!

Dec 012014
 

By Heidi Hill

Last week I sat at a children’s table, lovingly covered with a handmade tablecloth and laden with bread and homemade butter and soup, and was grateful once again to live in this very special community. I was taking part in the Harvest festival here at OCP, when the children prepare a soup from vegetables harvested from their school garden plots and share it with their families and friends. The children—ages two to five—helped take the vegetables they’d grown out of the ground, washed them, chopped them, and put them in the pot for the soup. They made the butter by hand (in a jar with marbles) and the decorations and place cards on the table. Their pride and enthusiasm over what they had done, even in my three-year-old’s class, speaks volumes about why it’s important to let kids create on their own terms. Their ability to work together and share in the rewards of that work speaks volumes about what it means to be a part of a strong community.

My experience growing up (in the suburbs of Atlanta) was very different from my kids’ experience. They learn in school about living sustainably and being good stewards of the earth. They get hands-on experience in growing their own food and preparing it. They talk about and have a chance to practice living in community—helping one another, doing your work, and taking care of your shared space. And they have a chance to learn from people who model good earth citizenship: gardening, recycling and composting and conserving, walking and biking to school and work.

OCP is a cooperative, so everyone pitches in—the children help determine what each day will hold, the teachers work together to present our curriculum, and the families are in the classrooms every day as parent-teachers. On Harvest, I was the parent-teacher, and I got to watch my son and his classmates prepare the soup that I would soon enjoy for lunch. I admired the table decorated with pumpkins and acorns and a tablecloth printed with vegetable stamps—all designed by little hands. When the other families joined us at noon, we all sat together (for a bit, at least) to eat, talk, and be thankful. For the food, the effort it took, and the community we all work so hard to create.

Reprinted from the Lake Claire Clarion, November 2013.

 

Nov 072014
 

Have you ever wondered about the financial aspects of running OCP? Did you know that the budget for the Committee work you do is one piece of a larger financial budget? Did you realize how important the annual fund and your tuition payments are to how the school functions? This post details the school’s total budget, to provide a clear understanding of how we both make and spend money. The category percentages are based on our projections for the current fiscal year, which runs from June 1, 2014 through May 31, 2015. The projections are based on past years, and are updated each February by Committee Chairs. The Treasurer uses these projections, as well as expected enrollment, to create a budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

First, how does the school bring in money? As you can see below, tuition makes up the largest percentage of our income. However, we would not be able to offer many of the fun, extra activities that our members love without our fundraising events, which make up approximately 10% of our yearly income.

Total Income:

  • Annual fund and other donations – 4.5%
  • Festivus Auction – 1%
  • 5K Race – 4.5%
  • School Year Tuition – 84%
  • Summer Camp Tuition – 6%

Next, where do we spend our money? Each Committee has a budget that they use to implement their portion of the Strategic Plan, which amounts to just under 10% of our budget (remember that 10% of our yearly income made up by fundraising?) The major costs come from our operating expenses, which include rent, utilities, paying our amazing staff, and all the other items that are necessary to run OCP.

Total Expenses:

Committees – 9.5% of budget (as follows)

  • Communications Committee – 0.5%
  • Coop Community Committee – 1.5%
  • Curriculum Committee – 1.5%
  • Green Committee – 0.5%
  • Management Committee – 0.5%
  • Membership Committee – 0.5%
  • Personnel Committee – 0.5%
  • Facilities Committee – 4%

Operating Expenses – 90.5% of budget (as follows)

  • Payroll, Subs, Taxes, and Employee benefits – 67.5%
  • Rent, facilities supplies – 14%
  • Classroom and operating supplies – 2%
  • Technology – 1%
  • Utilities – 4%
  • Insurance, Legal and Professional Fees, and Banking Fees – 2%

Because we are a non-profit, every cent that we make gets put back into our school. Some is held in reserve for use during emergencies; we currently have over 30% of our annual operating budget in our bank accounts. However, during the years that we are able to increase our income, either through full enrollment or additional fundraising, our budget can also increase to allow for special projects, such as last year’s kitchen remodel.

If you have any specific questions about the information presented here, or other questions about OCP’s budget and fiscal policies, feel free to e-mail this year’s treasurer, Caroline Evans (treasurer@oakhurstcoop.com).

Oct 292014
 

Part of OCP’s strategic plan stresses engagement and cooperation with the wider community, and one of our favorite ways to get involved is to participate in the many local festivals in our area. Decatur hosts a number of family-friendly festivals throughout the year, from the nationally recognized AJC Decatur Book Festival over Labor Day weekend to smaller, neighborhood-sponsored events like the Oakhurst Arts & Music Festival, held in October in Harmony Park. OCP volunteers at the children’s sections at both festivals, as well as at the Decatur Earth Day Festival, at the Wylde Center, and the Decatur Beach Party, in downtown Decatur.

These four festivals give us a chance to meet our neighbors, share our story, and be a part of the community building that happens when organizations come together to celebrate—whether it’s celebrating books, art, music, or the environment. For the past two years, our booth at the Decatur Book Festival has featured a selection from our carefully curated library and a collaborative “progressive story,” where kids (and adults) can each contribute a sentence or two to create a whimsical—and often hilarious—tale. Because literacy is an important part of our days at OCP (from reading aloud to kids to finger plays to sharing stories), we are always excited and honored to play a role at our local book festival.

For the other festivals we participate in, we brainstorm creative crafts that use recycled and compostable materials to highlight our emphasis on green, environmentally friendly practices at OCP. At this fall’s Oakhurst Arts & Music Festival, we were at the Kid Zone making toilet paper roll maracas with all the kids who stopped by. This neighborhood fall festival is always a great event, with food, music, art, kids’ activities, a parade, and other performances. We often get to see not only current OCP families but also alums of our school, and of course meet lots of families from the surrounding community. In the past, we’ve also created pinecone birdfeeders, toilet paper roll binoculars, and vegetable-stamped fans with children who come to our festival booths.

We value our partnerships with local organizations and try to get involved in a variety of ways. To celebrate fall, we recently installed a caterpillar “scarecrow” at the Wylde Center garden in Oakhurst. The caterpillar, made up of pumpkins decorated by all of our classes with recycled materials, will be on display for the Wylde Center’s member event on November 2. Please stop by and enjoy it with your kids while you can! You can see more photos of our insect friend on our Facebook page.

Sep 202014
 
By John ChescavageAutumn… a time for harvesting, changing colors, cool evenings, brisk air, and celebrations!  Each morning I can feel the cool of fall approaching, and it gets me excited for some of the best OCP celebrations of the year.  When Anna and I joined OCP a few years ago, we had motivations beyond the education of our children.  We were attracted to the community nature of the school and the prospect of meeting and befriending other young parents in our neighborhood.  As our daughter has moved from Chickadee to Lark, we can look back on all the great people we’ve met through OCP and know that many more friendships are in store!Two of my favorite celebrations are around the corner, and it has been at these gatherings that I’ve gotten to know many of the OCP parents beyond the daily drop-offs and quick passes in the hallway.  As you’ve already seen, the OCP Fall Bonfire (previously referred to as the Bonfire and Hootenanny) is just a couple weeks away (October 4).  Nestled in among the giant trees of the Wylde Center, this celebration serves as an opportunity to eat, drink, and dance with all of our members into the cool evening.  The kids love the s’mores, and I love seeing them all run around together exploring the friendly confines of what my daughter calls her “garden school.”

And before we know it December will come knocking, and with it Festivus.  I love this celebration for its community pot-luck dinner, the tables of handmade donations for the auction, and seeing what the kids have created in the classroom. This is really a pinnacle event for OCP with the focus on contributions into the community that everyone gets to enjoy.  It was impossible to try every bit of available home-cooking last year, but that won’t prevent me from trying again this year!

In between, of course, are other opportunities to get to know and enjoy the familial aspects of our OCP community, including facility work days (although hard, they are great bonding exercises) and Green Family Field Trips.  In fact, there’s a Green Family Field Trip scheduled for October 18, right about the time the weather in Atlanta is perfect for a good hike in the wilderness.

So make sure you mark your calendars for all the great celebrations that OCP has in store for the community, and make the effort to get to know fellow OCP parents!  After all, OCP is more than just a preschool!