The Lagoon cooperative preschool was founded in Belmont Heights in 1948 and incorporated as the Lagoon Playgroup within the State of California. We are a member of the Long Beach Council of Parent Participation Nursery Schools and are licensed by the State of California Department of Social Services.
Today, the Lagoon Cooperative Playgroup is still as unique as ever. We are characterized by the love and devotion of both the teacher and parents for the children. The playgroup was created on the foundation that family centered schools were a necessity to the development of children; to this day the Lagoon Playgroup remains firm in this belief.
The Concept of parent-cooperative nursery schools was new to Long Beach in 1948 when Dr. Katherine Whiteside Taylor came to conduct a class called “Guiding Children’s Growth”. She believed that the family centered nursery school served a vital need for children and parents alike, compensating for the loss of the old-time large family with its parents, grandparents, uncle, aunts, and cousins all participating in family life together.
After finishing Dr. Taylor’s course, a group of mothers visited a nursery school in Pacific Oaks, conducted by Dr. Molly Morgenroth. Dr. Morgenroth followed this visit with a weeklong workshop in Long Beach. Inspired by Dr. Morgenroth, the group of mothers, along with 25 children, formed the Belmont Heights Cooperative Nursery School.
Finding a place for the school to meet proved difficult. For the first year the school met at The Second Presbyterian Church on Third Street and Orizaba, under the direction of Astrid Archer. The group met five days a week. Before the first year was over Astrid Archer became pregnant and relinquished her position to Nadine Herlacher. The following year, Dorothy Brothers became teacher and the group met in Astrid Archer’s backyard. For several years, the group met in members’ backyards but complaints from neighbors and the need for a more permanent place prompted arrangements with the Long Beach Recreation Department for use of facilities at the Colorado Lagoon.
In 1952, The Belmont Heights Nursery School, now meeting at the Colorado Lagoon, became the Lagoon Cooperative Playgroup. Thelma Buteau was the teacher that year and was paid five dollars a morning. The outdoor play area was fenced in with tennis nets and all equipment had to be carried up stairs and stored in a tiny space in the frame building. The frame building was later deemed too dangerous and a potential fire hazard so the recreation commission converted the space to a nursery school and asked the school to pay one dollar a day for each day the school was in operation. In 1955, Thelma Buteau’s salary was increased to six dollars a morning and parents paid eight dollars per child.
In April 1958 plans were completed for a major change in school operation. There were now to be two groups instead of one. The two and a half to three year olds met twice a week, and the three and a half to five year olds met three times a week. There were also two mothers’ meetings a month, and separate officers for each group. However, by the end of the first year the mothers returned to a single meeting a month and combined set of officers.
Thelma Buteau continued to improve herself as teacher by taking many courses in nursery school techniques. Although some parents may have lost sight of the original meaning of parent participation nursery schools, the children continued to benefit. Thelma’s salary in 1963 was $150.00 per month for ten months as well as Workmen’s Compensation, Social Security, and paid holidays.
The school’s equipment was housed in two small buildings and had to be carried into the yard each morning to make room for the quaint classroom. Due to the use of the buildings as daily storage, rainy day school was held at Bay Shore Community Church about a quarter of a mile away for a donation of $50 a month.
From 1998 to 2008, under the direction of Tisa Brookhyser – Teacher/Director from 1998-2012 and 2006 Outstanding Teacher/Director Award winner for the California association for parent participation preschools (CCPPNS) – the Lagoon Playgroup confronted the challenge of growing. The idea led to countless hours of fundraising, having architectural plans drawn up and redrawn, and working with the City of Long Beach to gain approval for an addition. The addition was to connect the already existing structures, creating a larger indoor classroom to accommodate the children during rainy days, eliminating the need for the secondary site. To teacher and parents’ surprise, news was given on Wednesday, March 5th, (the last day of school) that construction was to begin on Thursday, March 6, 2008. Now the buildings provide working areas for children to learn through play with spaces dedicated to dramatic play, block building, a science corner, a library and a writing and art table.
Today, the Lagoon Cooperative Playgroup is still as unique as it was in 1952. The school has continued to work alongside the City of Long Beach renting out a small fenced-in area overlooking the Lagoon. Our playgroup has two groups of fifteen children who meet between 9am and 12pm. The seniors meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday while the juniors meet Tuesday and Thursday. Each group is offered extended day between 12pm and 2pm for a nominal fee. Both classes are taught by the teacher/director with the assistance of two working parents.
The Lagoon Cooperative Playgroup is characterized by the love and devotion of both the teacher and parents for the children. The playgroup was created on the foundation that family centered schools were a necessity to the development of children; to this day the Lagoon Playgroup remains firm in this belief.