Aug 172015
 

Written by Kelly Miller

Campfire

It’s hard to believe, but in a few short weeks we’ll be returning to OCP for a new school year. We’ll exchange stories of travel and adventure from the summer. We’ll notice how everyone has grown over the last few months. We may even go into the wrong classroom on the first day. It’ll be fun to see all the smiling faces and unique personalities come together in new ways, building friendships as we change classes, volunteering with different committees and sharing workdays with families we may have only seen in the hall. We might even miss a friend or two that’s graduated and moved on to kindergarten. As we look forward to these exciting days ahead, some of you might wonder what’s been going on at OCP.

Well, we started the summer off with the latest edition of our newsletter. From the Nest 2014-2015 made its debut in the beginning of the summer. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. We also hired a new teacher assistant for the Lark’s class, Melissa Bower. Let’s give her a big warm OCP welcome!

We’ve been very busy over the last few months with exciting camp sessions. A big thanks to our wonderful camp director, the creative teachers, and all the parent volunteers that made camp so special. The different themed weeks were filled with creative, hands on activities. The classes pretended to camp indoors and roast marshmallows over a fire. One week, there was a dinosaur dig and the next, there was a robot built from cardboard and recycled materials. During green invention week, campers created a marble run. And during farm to table week, classes made bread from scratch. Regardless of theme, the campers shared experiences and discoveries while having a blast. They played outside, created a slip n’ slide and enjoyed towering vegetables in the garden that were planted in the spring. New and old friends came together over the summer as a reminder of what we share during the year at OCP.

Making a robot

Towering sunflowers

With camp coming to a close, we’re reminded school is quickly approaching. So we’re back at it, getting OCP ready for the big first day of the 2105/16 school year. OCP families are coming together to make yet another wonderful year. We have teacher home visits, classroom visits and play dates coming up, which means numerous opportunities for families to become familiar with our teachers and classmates. We’ll have a parent mixer the week before school starts, so go ahead and book babysitters. And of course, orientation day followed by a playgarden picnic.

It’s exciting to have so much on the horizon. Looking forward, we have the start of a new school year. The change of the seasons is approaching as summer slips away, the days getting a little shorter. Maybe you’ve noticed a few leaves falling already or turning yellow? September brings the Decatur Book Festival over Labor Day weekend. Volunteers will be participating in reading activities with children and sharing our experiences from OCP. Don’t forget, we start day trips to the Wylde Center and the Fall Hootenanny in October. So when we ask, “What’s New OCP?” The answer is, there’s always something new happening at OCP.

Presently, we’re all grateful and eager to share new experiences with such wonderful families and friends. Here’s to remembering the special moments we’ve shared and celebrating the adventures yet to come.

Feb 232015
 

By Nancy Rinehart

One of the core values at OCP is our Green Curriculum, where our children are encouraged to connect with nature in their everyday lives, and to be curious and respectful of nature. In keeping with these values, we also incorporate the Green Curriculum when it’s time to have fun with our families! OCP hosts several events throughout the year for our families, all with a component of celebrating the season.

When the leaves begin to color and the air gets crisp in early October, OCP hosts our annual Bonfire (and Hootenanny) for current and past members at the Wylde Center. We celebrate fall with a big family picnic, a bright fire, s’mores, and lots of music. The kids have a blast running through the gardens, checking out the frog pond and the chicken coop, and toasting marshmallows. Grownups have a chance to relax and socialize, and if they don’t mind drinking out of one of our reusable kiddie cups, toasting the new school year with a more adult beverage.

Next up is our Harvest Celebration. This celebration epitomizes the connection with nature and community that we hope to foster at OCP. Earlier in the school year the children helped plant and tend vegetables in the garden beds in the play garden, and just before the celebration they harvest these vegetables. Working together, they make invitations for their families, create beautiful autumn table settings, and prepare soup with their harvest. Family members can join each class for lunch to share the soups, salads, and bread and butter that their children have created.

In wintertime, we celebrate our community with Festivus. (Yes, that’s a Seinfeld reference.) While we have specifically opted not to celebrate religious holidays or holidays that have become overly commercial, every culture has some form of celebration for the return of light in the dark of winter. We gather with our members, old and new, for a magnificent pot luck dinner. We appreciate our teachers and auction handmade items and services created by our members. It’s a great way to get to know the skills and artistry of our own community.

We show love for our families again in early February with Grandparents and Special Friends Day. The children invite their grandparents or other adult friends and relatives to join them in their classrooms for snacks, activities, and outside play. This year we had over 50 visitors, some even flying in from across the country!

We also celebrate the coming of Spring with a Lunar New Year Day and a mini-Holi Festival. The children learn about the traditions of these holidays from the Chinese and Indian cultures, respectively. They love trying the long noodles for a long life, and if you’ve never seen Holi at a preschool – it’s a blast! The kids enthusiastically throw brightly colored powders onto big white sheets strung up in the play garden, with much of it ending up on children and adults alike. It’s grand, messy, spring-time fun!

We round out the year by sending off our Larks (the 4 year olds) with a Fiesta in the park. We welcome summer and wish our graduates the best of luck in kindergarten with yummy Mexican food and lots of playtime.

There is much to celebrate in the turning of the seasons, and at OCP we have a great time observing nature both in school and out all year long!

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!

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.