I met with Ana Cantell, co-president of North Oaks Preschool, on a warm day in August to discuss the current state and possible future for the preschool.
Cantell explained that the preschool has seen a decline in student enrollment in recent years due to several factors. There is increased competition from other local and nearby programs. The East Rec houses the preschool, and that building is a challenge, both because the facilities are outdated and because other parties book the space, making a longer day option out of the question for the preschool, which many families want. “We are also a parent run co-op,” explained Cantell, “which is a model that is difficult to maintain due to lack of parent volunteers. We recently made the decision to eliminate our 3/4 class for the 2019/2020 year due to low enrollment.”
With the inability to continue with low enrollment coupled with less parent involvement, the preschool has come to a crossroads: they need to find an alternative path forward or they will be forced to close.
Cantell and her co-president, Mindy Ruane, recently went in front of the NOHOA Board at their June meeting highlighting the stark situation and asked that the preschool be absorbed in some capacity under the NOHOA Parks and Recreation program. This could take the shape of a preschool or early childhood classes. The NOHOA Board put this request on the July planning meeting’s agenda to discuss further; Cantell and Ruane asked for an answer by September so they can start planning accordingly either way.
Since the preschool has been in the community for over 50 years, Cantell and Ruane want the community to be aware of the situation. They are trying to keep the preschool open in some capacity, but they are unsure of what path the school’s future will take. “We want to be transparent of where we are at and what we have done to try to keep the preschool alive,” says Cantell. “We don't want the community to be blindsided.”
For the time being, the 4/5 class will be open this September but the 3/4 class will not. The preschool will learn the NOHOA Board’s decision on whether or not the preschool can continue under the umbrella of the Parks and Rec program after their September Board meeting. The Easter Egg Hunt, which many families have come to love and look forward to yearly, may not be possible this year. Changes will come to the North Oaks Preschool in the coming months; that much is certain. But what changes, and to what extent it will affect families hoping to enroll their young children in preschool, is anything but decided.