Five decades after opening its kids-nurturing doors, the South Lyon Co-op Preschool is still thriving thanks to its caring staff and dedicated parents who embrace the level of involvement that the learning establishment requires.
Located at 640 S. Lafayette, occupying rooms inside First United Methodist Church, the school’s 3- and 4-year-old attendees are guided through daily activities that emphasize fun-based discovering, creating and exploring.
Overseeing the life-enhancing programs are full-time teachers and volunteer parents, who combine to put the “cool” in the co-op format.
“Most people belong to a co-op because they want to be a part of it,” said Kari Yergin, the pre-school’s lead 4-year-old morning class teacher. “Everybody who has a child in the preschool has a job, which could range from being a member of the board, making Play-doh once a month or helping with laundry.
“Also, each set of parents is required to occasionally send in an adult — it could be one of the parents, a nanny or a grandparent — to join the two teachers in each class. Having three adults in each class not only makes it easy for the teachers, but the volunteers also help sanitize the classrooms when the class is outside. The entire arrangement is incredibly beneficial to the children.”
Yergin said she has frequently been reminded of the preschool’s impact on its students when she encounters now-adult alumni around town.
“For instance, South Lyon firefighters visit our preschool to teach fire safety to the kids, who get to check out the fire truck as well,” said Yergin. “Well, one of the firefighters — firefighter Brendan — told me he used to attend our school and how much he loved it.
“I asked him if he remembered his teacher’s name, and he said, ‘Tammy’. I worked with Tammy, so I got a photo of Brendan and I and sent it to her.
“When you’ve been a big part of a close-knit community like South Lyon for 50 years like this preschool has been, it’s not unusual to run into people whose lives have been positively impacted by their time here.”
Yergin said co-op preschools like the one in South Lyon were abundant in the 1970s.
“There are still quite a few around, but they’re not as numerous because most school districts offer preschool programs now,” she said. “What makes the co-op model special is it allows the family members to interact during the school day.
“Parents love to watch how their preschoolers interact with other children for the first time, too. It’s special, too, because the parents often tell us how much they love the environment we’re creating for their children.”
Yergin said the relationship the preschool’s relationship with First United Methodist Church has been amazing.
‘So much love’
“They have shown us so much love over the years,” she said. “They make sure our space is in great shape. You can tell they really care about us.”
The co-op preschool has 17 children in each of its 4-year-old classes (morning and afternoon classes) and 15 in its 3-year-old class. The school also offers a parent-tot class for even younger children.
While the bulk of the students live in South Lyon, the preschool also draws families from surrounding communities, including Wixom, New Hudson, Northville and Novi, to name a few.
“We’re pretty play-based, emphasizing play and exploring,” Yergin said. “The older the kids get, there’s going to be more gradual learning.”
The preschool recently celebrated the unveiling of a new play area that is highlighted by a super-cool play structure that features a double slide.
“The children’s excitement level leading up to the opening of the play area was amazing,” Yergin said. “We had to clear out the former space and it took about two weeks to assemble the new play structure, so the kids could see it being built.
New play structure a hit
“I’d have children coming up to me every day asking, ‘When it’s going to be ready? When’s it going to be ready?’
“Now that’s it’s open, the kids are finding so many ways to use their imaginations to navigate it.”
Like all education-based entities, the South Lyon Co-op Preschool had to be shut down for a stretch after the outbreak of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020.
“We held virtual classes while we were closed down,” Yergin explained. “We’ve had to rebuild slowly, but it’s going great. We’ve yet to add a second 3-year-old A.M. class, but that will come.”
To learn more about South Lyon’s flourishing educational mainstay, visit its website here.
Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or email@example.com.