Future of WL Community Preschool up in the air as New Life Church prepares to sell property
In late 2016, parents and staff members at the West Linn Community Preschool thought they had found a solution to their existential problem.
After being told by the West Linn-Wilsonville School District in the spring of 2015 that there was no longer room at Bolton Primary School to house the parent co-op preschool, staff and parents alike spent more than a year searching for a new home before striking gold at West Linn's New Life Church, just a few blocks from West Linn High School.
Now, they find themselves in a similar predicament after being informed that the church is selling its property.
"We'll have to be out probably by the end of the summer," said Dylan Pakes, vice president and registrar for the preschool. "They think the property will sell by September, so we have to find a new place by then. It's kind of hard; we just moved there after a long and extensive search."
Preschool staff members have come up empty so far in searching for potential new homes — and they're looking for help.
"We've actually exhausted our search," Pakes said. "I've called tons of churches throughout the community, we've called churches in Oregon City ... the hope was we could use the (old) Bolton fire station when (renovations) were done and that could be a permanent home, but that project has kind of stalled or might not happen.
"So our hope is someone in the community might assist in helping us find a home, or there might be a facility that could help us."
Pakes said the preschool is designed to be flexible as far as space needs.
"We currently utilize about four small classrooms, and have an outdoor space for play, plus a kitchen," Pakes said. "Large indoor space, kitchen and outdoor play area are all important."
The preschool began in a West Linn church back in 1977, and has since relocated several times. Teacher Cathy Vause has been at the school since 1980 and has watched several generations of families pass through in the 37-plus years since she arrived.
As a "parent cooperative" school — the only one in West Linn — the preschool is operated by parents and teachers alike.
"It would be disappointing for it to end because it offers affordable, quality schooling for our families," said Pakes, who has one child currently attending the school and hopes to send another. "Being that it's a co-op and parents have a hand in decision-making for the school, it really builds a sense of community — a bond between parents, because we all work together."
Added Vause: "The co-op preschool environment allows parents to learn alongside their children."
Vause herself is a major asset for the community as well, according to parents like Jennifer Eustaquio.
"The quality of education for the preschoolers is unequivocal," Eustaquio said. "Cathy teaches with thoughtfulness, careful integration of skill development, education-wide best practices, and always goes the extra mile to make preschool a special experience for each child."
Pakes and Eustaquio both pointed to affordability as another plus.
"The community (Vause) fosters is so valuable for young families, as the means to pay for childcare pose an ever-increasing challenge," Eustaquio said.
Making things just a bit easier for families is certainly something Vause strives for.
"In this fast paced world that we find ourselves living in, I think many families are looking for ways to simplify their lives and slow things down a bit," Vause said. "I strive to provide that simpler, slower pace for our families to enjoy each week when they enter our school doors."
Pakes said the preschool still has a few more options to explore, but the prospects are murky.
"We haven't explored contacting the (school) district yet about empty classrooms, but as far as I know most schools at the district are at capacity," he said. "Our hope is someone will come out and offer a solution, or the City might have a solution.
"Or, this is the end of our school."