Gwen Davis
Prospective parent, Rebecca Parker (left) talks with Community School of West Seattle founder/director Sarah Airhart.

Parents consider Community School of West Seattle; Specializing in 'organic' education they invited neighbors to an open house Jan. 18

By Gwen Davis

“The fact that this school has all sorts of activities – like getting dirty with outdoor play and water play and sandbox play – I think will definitely keep him busy,” said parent Ali Sundet, who attended the Community School of West Seattle’s open house on Sat., Jan 19.

Sundet has a four-year-old, who needs more structure.

“We are new to the neighborhood, we’ve been here about a month, and our son is ready to do something more than be at home with mom and dad,” Sundet said. “I went to the preschool fair on Mon. night and met the people who work here, and they said come to our open house and see what it’s all about.”
The school offers many advantages to Sundet.

“It’s close and convenient, and also works with our work schedules,” she said.

The Community School of West Seattle – specializing in providing an “organic” education for three and four-year-olds – is currently offering open houses, observations and opportunities to apply.
Sarah Airhart, founder and director, said she began the school years ago because she wanted something different for her own preschool –aged kids.

“I worked in early childhood for a number of years,” she said. “But when I had my own children I realized I wanted a different type of preschool experience for them, and knew the only way to have that was to create it myself, so that’s the way it turned out to be.”

Exploration is an important part of the curriculum, she said.

The school’s signature offering includes the Messy Play Day, featuring hands-on squishy experiences for toddlers around 15 months to three years. The class is offered for one hour once a week on Fri. for six weeks with a parent or caregiver. The class provides sensory, hands-on activities such as painting, water table and play dough.

On any given day, there are 64 to 66 children in the school, but the school serves a total of 105 families.
Annual tuition is between $3,600 through $10,500, depending on how much time parents want their kids in the school.

Tuition at the school is annual, covering the whole school year from Sep. through Aug. Monthly payments options are available. Before and after school care payments are also due at the beginning of the month.
Children can stay for an occasional long day, for a rate of $35, but it must be prearranged with the director.
“We only have a limited number spaces,” Airhart said. “Every year, half the classroom goes to kindergarten, so that leaves the rest of the classroom for three and four-year-olds. Typically, we look for three-year-olds to fill those spaces.”

Not everyone will get in, but the school tries to minimize its non-acceptance rates.
“We will have 40 to 50 spots this year,” Airhart continued. “We don’t typically have to turn many applicants away.”

Siblings get a 10 percent discount off the total tuition.
Breakfast is available Mon. through Fri. between 8 – 9 a.m.

For the Blake and Whidbey group, the drop-in breakfast rates are $10 per day. Monthly rates for one day per week are $25; two days per week are $50; three days per weeks are $75; four days per week are $100; and five days per week are $125.
The Orcas and Vashon breakfast rates are similar but slightly more expensive.
After school care is available Mon. through Fri. until 5:30 p.m. and includes a snack. For the Blake and Whidbey group, drop in rates are $25 per day, with monthly packages, similar to how the breakfast offering worked. For the Orcas and Vashon group, drop in rates are $20 per day, with respective monthly packages.
Financial assistance is available, and parents are invited to ask for the scholarship form if in need.
The school does accept DSHS payments, which are to be set up with the director.
However, the school strives to provide a good preschool experience.

“I teach ‘handwriting without tears’ to children who will be entering kindergarten the next year,” said Jen Foster, a language arts teacher. “We start out with basic fine motor skills, and then move onto holding a crayon, and eventually move onto the wonders of the alphabet,” she said.
“The kids love it.”

There are two teachers in each classroom making eight, with 12 teachers total, covering before and after school.

Parents are attracted to the school mostly by word-of-mouth, she said.

Prospective parents – aside from attending an open house – are encouraged to schedule an observation time for them and their children to see what the school is like and to ask any questions.
The school accepts three to four-year-olds, but some will turn five before the end of the years. Two-year-olds are not accepted.

Applications are due in the office by Mon. March 3. There is a $50 nonrefundable application fee. Placement offers will be sent out by March 28.

“We accept all families,” Foster said, regardless of developmental progress of students. “We also have a sliding scale of tuition and scholarships, so we’re really trying to be available to the community.”
Graduates go to public and private schools all over West Seattle.

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