Searching for a place to call 'home'

Earlier this year, the dream of a Sequim Pre-Three Cooperative affiliated with Peninsula College's Family Life Education program came true.

Parents, grandparents and guardians traveling to Port Angeles from Sequim once a week with toddlers in tow no longer have to commute. First Teacher shares its room in the Sequim Community School building from 1-3 p.m. on Wednesdays. Each session is supervised by a preschool teacher and a parent educator. Children spend the first hour with a preschool teacher while parents work with a parent educator; the second hour is spent playing and learning together.

Two quarters later, the parent-run co-op preschool for children 10 months to 31/2 years old is in danger of closing down or at the very least suffering decreased enrollment. Organizers desperately are searching for a permanent location to hold morning sessions at least once a week - maybe twice a week down the road.

Despite the generosity of First Teacher donating its space, the afternoon time slot isn't working, Pre-Three organizers say.

"I don't know if we will have the enrollment we need for a winter quarter if we're still in the First Teacher room," said Susan Baritelle, Sequim Pre-Three secretary and fundraising chairwoman, explaining that a large number of the parents, grandparents and guardians are experiencing difficulty arranging their schedules to attend class in the afternoon. "But if we had a morning class from like 9-11 a.m., we'd have enough students and parents for two classes."

The perfect venue would be conjoined or nearby rooms in a school, church or private facility. A fenced area where the children can play or access to a safe outdoor recreation area, such as Carrie Blake Park or a school playground, is critical to the program, Baritelle said.

If Sequim Pre-Three has a permanent location, children would be able to hang art to dry, leave toys and materials out or in a storage closet and complete more messy sensory activities that are critical to early learning but that some parents are hesitant to engage in at home,

said instructor Nicole Harris.

The biggest problem with the afternoon time slot, Harris said, is that class interferes with most toddlers' nap time.

Some parents have leave early to pick up older children from school, she added.

The board isn't asking for a handout - the organization is willing to pay rent for a permanent space, clarified Ericka Albers, co-founder and board chairwoman.

Winter quarter is scheduled to start the second week in December. Ten children are accepted into the class. Parents receive two credits per quarter.

The Port Angeles Pre-Three program offers four classes. "I don't see any reason why we can't do that, too (someday)," Baritelle said optimistically.

In addition to the location crisis, Sequim Pre-Three is suffering a shortage of board members. The only requirement to be on the board is to have a child enrolled in the program.

A Sequim Pre-Three program existed about eight years ago but was shut down for reasons unknown to her, Baritelle said.

"We're trying to prevent that from happening again," she pleaded. "Anything that promotes early learning and parent-child interaction is important for the community."

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