Community

Mercer Island has preschools aplenty

If you’re looking to enroll your youngster into a preschool in the fall, then you need to attend the Mercer Island Preschool Association’s Preschool Fair on Jan. 29.

This is the 12th year that the association has held this event, which will be held at Islander Middle School from 10 a.m. to noon.

It’s astounding how many options are available to parents of young children on Mercer Island. To list them all would be staggering, but here’s a sample of what you can look forward to.

The Andover School, a private for-profit school, opened in September of last year and is all inclusive for 2-year-olds to pre-kindergarten kids. Andover prides itself on being organic. They recycle and encourage kids to work in the garden. Andover is located off the West Mercer exit and has a school in West Seattle as well.

Study includes colors, numbers, shapes, sharing, social skills, pre-reading and pre-math skills. They even have etiquette classes and cooking classes focusing on foods from different cultures and countries.

Executive director Kelli Palsha said they have 19 children right now, and they will have some space in the fall. They operate half days year-round, closing only for Christmas break and a week during the Fourth of July holiday.

Early World Montessori, on Southwest 80th, has been on Mercer Island since 1986, originally called "The Children's School." Early World is a private, family-run for-profit school that adopted the Montessori curriculum in 1995. Because the program is individualized, children may be accepted any time during the school year.

Montessori is focused to nurture the whole child, physically, socially, academically and emotionally. All the teachers are fully accredited Montessori teachers at the school.

Director Barbara Luther said they have six pages on a waiting list right now, but as kindergartners graduate, things change.

"We should have space for 20-30 kids in the fall," she said. "The fair is a good time to let people know who you are. There are a lot of good schools on the Island."

The Mercer Island Learning Lab on 86th, near the high school, is a cooperative preschool where parents work in the classroom occasionally. This allows for an adult-to-child ratio of 1-4 in the 3 and 4-year-old classes, and 1-5 in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten.

Every day includes creative activities, cooking, science, exploration, literature, music, movement and problem solving.

Parents are assigned a "job" throughout the year — serving as secretary, or ordering books or supplies. They work one to three times a month in the classroom. They also attend a parent meeting/education session once a month and receive a vocational education credit from Bellevue College in return.

Instructor Judy Witner said the program has been in Washington state for 75 years. It started in high schools as part of home economics. Now Bellevue College sponsors these programs from Mercer Island to North Bend, with over 1,000 students. Parents learn as they go, as do their children. Each class has one parent educator and one teacher. Witner said they have about 60 families this school year, which is their normal level. They do close in the summer.

Emmanuel Day School, on 86th near the library, is an independent, nonprofit, non-religious preschool serving children ages 2 and 9 months to age 6. They believe in play with a purpose, using interactive stations throughout the school that allow the child to experience different skills such as math, science, art and language. The stations always have a theme, which director Claudia Allard said changes often.

Allard said they are proud to be a safe place for kids with allergies. The school is nut and dairy free; they supply snacks for children who are sensitive to allergy issues.

Emmanuel offers a morning and afternoon pre-kindergarten. Both sessions run every day. If you register now or at the fair, you will get $75 a month off of the tuition per month for the afternoon pre-K. Allard said they are "right where they want to be" at about 60 children. Registration is open now or at the fair.

Little Acorn Day School and Little Acorn Sprouts is a private nonprofit company, full in both programs at this time.

Little Acorn Sprouts meet at the Community Center at Mercer View and is for 1 to 2 1/2-year-olds. They currently have 14 children, with a teacher-to-student ratio of 1-4. The curriculum is play-based, offering daily art, music and cognitive activities.

Little Acorn Day School is next to Youth Theatre Northwest and is for 2 1/2 to 6-year-old kids. Curriculum includes art, music, science drama, reading, social skills and performance. There are 24 children in the school.

Director Tiana Traylor said the recession has not seemed to affect the enrollment, and she anticipates having several openings in both programs in the fall.

If a bilingual start sounds good for your child, you might be interested in the French-American School of Puget Sound. The school on East Mercer Way is a private, nonprofit school with students in the Young Pre-K program (2 1/2 to 3 years old), then moving onto pre-K (ages 3-4), and all the way to eighth grade.

As children progress through pre-K and kindergarten, they become increasingly comfortable in their bilingual world. Director of admission Patricia Blaise-Caves said the school just expanded to include eighth grade this past fall.

"We've seen an increase in enrollment," she said.

The French-American School is a member of the Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools. They have 22 French-speaking teachers.

If before and after school care is what you need for your K-5 children, KidsCo., a private nonprofit affiliated with the Mercer Island School District, offers two locations: Island Park Elementary and West Mercer Elementary. There is no space for KidsCo. at Lakeridge Elementary, but children who attend that school are taken by bus to West Mercer. Director Amanda Sherry said KidsCo. also has a summer program.

Former superintendent Dick Geiger designated KidsCo. as the district's preferred provider in the 1990s.

The Mercer Island School District has a special-needs preschool per federal law, which is free appropriate public education, held at PEAK. As part of its facility plan, the school district is discussing whether or not it can provide a dedicated space at each of the district's three elementary schools for preschool.

Current superintendent Gary Plano said it's too expensive to keep a dedicated space empty during the day, but if it's used as a preschool and contracted out to a private vendor, it could pencil out. At the Jan. 13 board meeting, the consensus was to give a yellow light for dedicated space with the understanding that the preschool would be outsourced. The issue will be explored in more detail with the facilities planning committee.

MIPA Preschool Fair: Jan. 29

The Mercer Island Preschool Association’s annual Preschool Fair will be Saturday, Jan. 29, from 10 a.m. until noon at Islander Middle School, located at 8225 S.E. 72nd St.

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