Emmanuel Day School keeps ties, begins anew

Emmanuel Day School celebrated its first year as an independent preschool this week, after breaking away from the Emmanuel Episcopal Church. The move, which was official as of July 1, was the result of a congenial agreement between church administration and Emmanuel parents.

Due to financial restraints, the church announced in 2007 that it could no longer afford to run the half-day preschool. Determined to save the 46-year-old preschool — one of the oldest on Mercer Island — the parents and teachers of Emmanuel decided to take the program into their own hands.

In November of 2007, a parent board of directors was formed. Having already reached an agreement with the church whereby Emmanuel would rent its adjacent space and operate as an independent school, the board began the long task of becoming an independent, nonprofit preschool.

“All last year, we were preparing this,” said Abigale Little, president of the newly independent Emmanuel Day School. “The church has been great in helping us get our feet on the ground. They didn’t want to see the school go away; they just didn’t have the finances or manpower to continue it.”

During the past 12 months, Emmanuel Day School has received its 501(c)3 status from the IRS, hired parent Leslie Moore as school and taken on all administrative and financial responsibilities. On Sept. 8, Emmanuel opened its doors as an independent entity — the same doors that were opened more than 40 years ago. But besides the legal paperwork, little at Emmanuel has changed.

“We’re trying to keep it the same school. We have the same wonderful teachers that make Emmanuel such an important place,” Little said, adding that one of the school’s veteran teachers, Rita Macomber, won the Mercer Island Preschool Association’s “Exceptional Teacher of the Year” award for 2008.

“We’re really proud about that,” Little said. “She’s been at Emmanuel for 20 years and has earned the honor.”

Emmanuel offers half-day morning programs for 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds. There is also an afternoon pre-K enrichment program for children in their last year of preschool. As of this week, all morning classes are full although there are a few spaces in Emmanuel’s afternoon program, Little said. The preschool accepts students from on and off the Island and has several Eastside children attending.

The day school’s curriculum and philosophy — which gives the school its “heart” — will not change.

“Our philosophy is that the combination of structure, play, socializing and learning helps children love learning while putting in place the disciplines and experiences that will help them thrive in school. All this is done in an environment of loving care, respectful appreciation and dedication to the value of learning,” the Emmanuel Day School’s Web site reads. And this, according to Little, is why children and parents keep coming back.

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