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Our History

In 1947, a group of members of the American Association of University Women expressed a desire for a cooperative nursery school in the San Mateo area, a school in which the mothers would be an integral part of their children’s first experience away from home. They presented their idea to James Tormey, then Director of Adult Education at the College of San Mateo. After obtaining financial aid from CSM Adult Education Department, the San Mateo Parents’ Nursery School was started at McArthur Barracks at Coyote Point. The first school year began in September 1948. Under the leadership of Carol Hardgrove, Director; Virginia Overhulser, Assistant Director; and Meta Kaufman, President the 17 families built equipment and made materials to be used in the school. Some of this equipment is still in use today!


From 1949 to 1955, The school continued to operate at Coyote Point with Gertrude Tipton Archibald as Director. In June of 1955 the school left the Coyote Point Barracks and moved to the Chinese Baptist Church. Two years later, 1957, the school began holding classes in two cottages at Saint Andrews Church. This location was used for two years, during which time the school looked for a permanent location. While at Saint Andrews, Carol Hardgrove again assumed the Directorship.

In September of 1959, after some difficulty in finding a location and obtaining the necessary financial aid, our school broke ground for construction at the present site. A carefully accumulated building fund purchased the lot. The funds necessary to commence construction of the building were obtained by nursery school parents selling about $6500.00 worth of Promissory Notes at $25.00 per note to private individuals. The balance of the mortgage was financed by the San Mateo Branch of the Wells Fargo Bank. In addition, the Thompson Brothers, builders of the school, lent money for a second mortgage. They completely paid the last of the promissory notes and the second mortgage in 1965. While our school was being built, classes were held across the street in the playground at the San Mateo Boys Club and Shoreview Park. The move was made into our present building in January 1960. Marion Martinez Graham was President during these important proceedings.

From 1962 to 1967, Dorothy Hills undertook Directorship of the school. Our happy association with the College of San Mateo’s Evening College continued with participating mothers enrolled in continuing Child Development courses. From 1966 to 1968, parents of San Mateo Parents’ Nursery School initiated a program in conjunction with the San Mateo City Schools to racially integrate the community schools. This was called the Administrative Transfer Program, and our parents acted as hosts for minority students, welcoming the parents and students into neighborhood schools.

In the early 1970s, the Vietnam War became a significant issue in the United States and our community. Many of our parents became politically active in this cause of peace. In the mid 1970s, many of our teachers, staff and parents recognized the need for child care among local college students and added our support to the community effort to raise the consciousness of the local college administrators’ awareness of this need. In the mid

1970s, Dorothy Hills visited (and observed) British Infant Schools. As a direct result of these observations, the San Mateo Parents’ Nursery School adopted the “Family Grouping System” and no longer segregated the students by age groups. To implement this new system, the barriers dividing classroom and playground areas were removed. This is the same philosophy that continues in our program to date, with two to five year olds benefiting from their mutual experiences.

From 1976 to 1978, the College of San Mateo found it increasingly difficult to maintain its affiliation with our school. Despite the diligent efforts of our parents and staff during this period, with the passage of Proposition 13 it became necessary to become an independent, non-profit corporation. As a result of this increased freedom in our operation, we were able to more fully serve the needs of the community. With the advent of the 1980s, an increasing number of families found both parents working outside the home. In response, our school opened its doors to a limited number of non co-op families.

To further accommodate families, in the early 1990s an extended care program in the mornings and afternoons was offered, changing our hours of operation to 7:45 am to 6:00 pm. We continue to offer a summer session, which was recently divided to accommodate the families with older children who are in schools with a year-round calendar.