The Children’s School was co-founded by Mary Elizabeth Maltman and Eunice Roselle and opened in September of 1965. They were both members of UCUCC, neighbors, and had children in kindergarten. Mary Elizabeth was coordinating the UCUCC preschool program and realized that there were some low-income children regularly attending who had severe problems that could not be addressed on a short-term basis. She felt that they needed support during the week, but the parents didn’t have the time or the money to join a preschool cooperative. At the same time Eunice wanted to start a preschool that offered enriched art activities to young children. With the strong help of Rev. Elwin Scheyer, their proposal to start a modified Montessori program for twelve 3-4 year olds was shepherded through the approval process of the church trustees. They secured space and ordered preschool tables and chairs that are still in use today. The school first met in the current church office space, which was then the large kindergarten room. The church kindergarten program allowed them the use of their play equipment, and the first play yard was created in the back yard of a church-owned house across 16th Street. Montessori equipment was then ordered from Great Britain and the Netherlands. The Children’s School was one of the first two Montessori schools in the city of Seattle. For the first few years Eunice and Mary Elizabeth were the only teachers and shared the responsibilities of running the school. Eunice was primarily responsible for the financial set-up of the school.
Within five years they had expanded to staff to include a total of 8 teachers and the preschool became a 501(C)(3) organization. Eunice left the TCS to help her husband in his expanding design company and Mary Elizabeth became the director.
Several years later, it was decided to move the church offices from their location in the current Library to the present location. The Children’s School moved downstairs to Rooms 105-106 (where Trettin Drop-in Center is now located). When the Education addition on the North End of the church was being completed, it became apparent that the church did not have enough funding to finish the 3rd floor. Dr. Turner had an office in the U-District away from the church for which the church was paying rent. He suggested that he move into a corner office suite, Room 339, so the church could stop paying rent for his offsite office, and that TCS pay rent for three rooms along the north end of the building. This would then allow the church to be able to finish the 3rd. floor. Mary Elizabeth worked with the architect to assure compatibility with the needs of preschoolers, and that there was a custodian’s closet with an adequate sink for paints, etc. The Child Care Board did the same for their rooms, whose extended-day needs were different. TCS also used the middle space (Room 340) but did not pay rent at that time. During this period the TCS was seen as an outreach of UCUCC and contributed to the building fund and the playground development.
TCS continued to grow and had morning and afternoon classes for 3 year olds on T-TH and for 3-5 year olds on MWF. The initial teachers, except for one, were members of the church, who had early childhood education training and welcomed employment matching their own children’s school hours. As needs changed, pre-3 and pre-k classes and a “Lunch Bunch” were added. Donna Smith replaced Mary Elizabeth as director and Sallie McArthur succeeded Donna Smith. Sallie retired as director last year, although not from teaching and curriculum development. The new director is Mary Lloyd.
TCS helped Turning Point Preschool get started with financial help and Montessori equipment. The school has also helped the Mwanzo Proud Farmers preschool, and each December adopts several of the church Christmas families project’s largest families.
Over the years TCS has served more than 2500 families, and the staff and graduates span three generations.
Current Status of the TCS
According to Dr. Mary Lloyd, current Director, the enrollment averages around 55 students per year, although they have had many schools years with attendance swelling up over 60 children. The student population is comprised of urban families of moderate/modest means - families residing or working near the university (although their reach is expanding with many more children from neighborhoods such as East Lake, Maple Leaf, Green Lake, and Lake City). TCS has always accepted children of any race, color, national, or ethnic origin and their student population continues to reflect Seattle’s changing demographics, both culturally and economically.
TCS provides scholarships to families in need and has been extremely generous over the years. Since 2007, the school has provided 29 students with financial assistance totaling $39,433. We also discount “Lunch Bunch” and offer special payment plans.
In the words of Mary Lloyd, “We are a time-honored, distinctive preschool that puts the child at the center of the learning, maintains a stellar teacher-to-student ratio, and employs exceptionally talented teachers. We pride ourselves on being mission-driven, self-sustaining, and passionate about the work we do.”
TCS is committed to remaining affordable. To support this fundamental value, their tuition increases have been conservative and infrequent. Conversely, such accommodations and generosity have also reduced available funds for scholarships. As the current landscape of early learning and preschool education evolves, the TCS board recognizes the fundamental need to step up fundraising efforts in order to compete and ensure both the excellence and integrity of their program. They recognize that increased overhead, minimum wage requirements, and decreased enrollment are a reality that they need to overcome if they want to continue to operate and serve the community.
TCS currently pays rent for and uses Rooms 331, 333, 337, 341, 343, and 340. They employ 11 staff which includes the director.
Source of information:
1. Interview with Mary Elizabeth Maltman, co-founder and first Director.
2. Input from Sallie McArthur (past Director) and Mary Lloyd (current Director).