Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Co-op school could close without a new home

Forty five families—including sixty kids in total—are counting on a Fishers based cooperative preschool to be able to find a new home by this August.

Founded in 1996, Fishers Pointe Cooperative Preschool, now in its third location, quickly outgrew it’s previous two locations. Currently located in Northeast Community Church (9959 East 126th St.) for the past five years, the school’s lease with the church is up in August. The school learned last winter that their lease would not be renewed due to the growing church’s plans to utilize the space differently. Parents have been searching ever since for a new, suitable space to house the school.

Space shouldn’t be an issue, right? Not in Hamilton County. But it is.

“We can’t find the square footage that a quality program requires,” teacher Carla Bidwell said. “Enrollment is not a problem for us. Having dedicated, hard-working parents is not a problem. We have no problem with any of that, it’s just the space.”

There are a dozen cooperative preschools in the metropolitan Indy area. Fishers Pointe is the only cooperative preschool in Hamilton County, having started here because “Hamilton County fit our demographics,” Bidwell, a founding member of the co-op, said.

The school follows the high standards of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and is a member as well of the Indiana Council for Preschool Cooperatives. These groups set the standards for minimum square footages per child, curriculum and parental involvement.

“We don’t want to step away from that high standard,” Bidwell said. “We’re finding that church buildings are small, or their educational areas are small.”

Lisa Switzer, co-president of the co-op since last May and searching diligently since for a new space via emails, phone calls and letters, along with co-president Courtney Floyd, Switzer added that “the ones who’ve wanted to welcome us in just don’t have the space, and if they do have the space, they already have a preschool of their own.”

The possibility of locations other than churches is being explored as well. “We have a commercial Realtor, it’s just—what can we afford?” said Switzer. They hope to stay in Fishers but are exploring the outskirts of Fishers, such as the south side of Noblesville or the east side of Carmel.

Office space and warehouse space that hasn’t been built out is generally out of the budget for the school, though they are looking into getting pre-approved for a mortgage, should they find a suitable space to purchase.

“We’ve increased our fundraising and are trying to raise enough money [for those options],” Floyd said.

When it comes down to it, if the school can’t find a space, or finds a space to purchase and can’t afford a mortgage, they won’t be open in August.

“And we’re bound and determined not to see that happen,” Floyd said.

“We’ve worked too hard for that,” Switzer added.

The parents are optimistic they’ll have a new home. “Even though we don’t know what our address is going to be in the fall, parents are writing checks and enrolling their children,” Bidwell said.

For more information on Cooperative Preschools,  visit

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