(San Marcos Parent-Child Workshop photo)

With the 2023-2024 school year starting, Noozhawk’s Private & Independent School Guide is sure to make things easy when planning for your child’s education! Our school guide provides you and your child with all the necessary information about local private schools in Santa Barbara County.

To give parents the tools to help make informed decisions about which school is the best fit for their kids in Santa Barbara, Noozhawk has conducted a series of interviews with representatives of local private & independent schools for this year’s school guide.

In this interview, Noozhawk spoke with Nina Saulsbury-Hunter, Tuition Director at San Marcos Parent-Child Workshop to learn more about what their school has to offer.

San Marcos Parent-Child Workshop (SMPCW)

Question: What is the name of your school and what grade levels do you offer?

Answer: San Marcos Parent-Child Workshop (SMPCW) serves preschool children aged 2.5 to 5 years.

Q: How is your school operated or governed?

A: The San Marcos Parent-Child workshop (SMPCW) is a non-profit 501(c)3, licensed, cooperative preschool and parent education class sponsored by the Parenting Department through the School Of Extended Learning at Santa Barbara City College. SMPCW is legally owned and operated by the members of the cooperative. Trained staff provide professional expertise to manage the educational programs and provide support to families.

SMPCW provides and recognizes partnership with families as an integral part of the community. To support each person’s growth, we work toward individualizing our program for children and families. We acknowledge that each person brings different needs, skills, interests, backgrounds and life experiences. Day-to-day operations are the responsibility of the members. All preschool families are required to participate actively within the co-op administering day-to-day operations through work on school committees. Members may choose to participate in the way that best suits their talents.

The management of the school is the responsibility of a Board of Directors, elected from the parents of the school. The Board is elected by membership vote in the Spring for a one-year term from July 1 to June 30. All preschool members have the right to vote and hold office. The board is responsible for the overall strategic vision and financial well-being of the school.

(San Marcos Parent-Child Workshop photo)

Q: What curriculum is available and taught at your school?

A: “Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn. ” ~ O. Fred Donaldson

Our curriculum is based on promoting children’s social, emotional, physical, cognitive, and creative development. Curriculum is individualized to meet the needs of the students in the program and changes depending on their needs and interests.

All children are given the opportunity to learn, take initiative and responsibility by choosing their area of activity. Our low child/adult ratio means each child is assisted and encouraged in this exploration. We emphasize the value of parent education for the positive development of the family. We recognize the family to be the most important influence in the child’s life and work to support the growth of parenting skills and knowledge.

Cooperative group time is the part of the day that provides closure for the children. It develops community and offers a wonderful time for observation of children in a group. Children have the opportunity to learn new songs, listen to stories and explore curriculum concepts a little more closely to build on pre-k skills.

Q: What is your student to teacher ratio?

A: 5:1 (student to adult).

Q: Can you describe a typical day for a student at your school?

A: Our day begins at 8:45 with a student health check by the teacher and routine hand washing. Students are then able to explore and engage in a myriad of experiences with free-choice play inside or outside. All activity stations are designed to reach the learning domains including cognitive, language, social-emotional, fine and gross motor skills, and self-help adaptive skills on multiple levels giving the child many opportunities to grow, learn, and have fun while doing so.

On any given day there is dramatic play, science, cooking, sensory play, cognitive games, and engineering environments with Lego, Duplo, Magna-tiles, wooden blocks, and other manipulatives. Our shaded ADA-compliant play structure offers children a safe space to stretch their climbing and balance skills, working those gross motor muscles and encouraging better self-regulation through play – the child’s work.

Children enjoy a balanced, healthy snack at 10:00am and then continue with free choice play till 11:30 when children and grownups work together to clean up activities. Children then go with their teachers into small groups where they sing songs, practice turn taking and focusing skills, enjoy stories, and more. This is also a time that we may have special guest visitors or our music and movement enrichment classes. Pick up is either at noon or for children enrolled in our afternoon care program until 3:30 pm and includes a lunch time from 12-12:30. The afternoon care program reflects the morning program with the addition of offering a time for children to rest as well as offering free choice activities and time for an afternoon snack. We honor the developmental process of each child so children do not need to be potty trained to attend.

Q: How does your school select/hire teachers and how does it invest in their continuing education?

A: Santa Barbara City College has an intensive screening process with special focus groups to hire both the lab/lecture teachers (Director and Assistant Director). Additionally our school Board of Directors, the Director of Education, and Assistant Director, as well as our Afternoon Program teacher are all involved with the interview, selection, and hiring process of supplemental staff promoting transparency and offering the highest quality educational program. Our grant writing team of parent volunteers applies for local and federal grants to offer professional development for our teachers on a yearly basis, as learning happens everywhere all the time for everyone. Staff are also encouraged to stay current on the most recent evidence-based practices in both early childhood education and parenting and guidance strategies.

Q: How does your school measure student progress?

A: Through child observations, daily staff check-ins and monthly meetings staff work closely together to identify children’s individual needs, developmental strengths and challenges. Additionally, through our parent education program, parents are part of this journey and acquire an intimate knowledge of how to support each child in our care and how to best support their own child’s growth and development.

Q: What sports or extracurricular activities does your school offer?

A: We provide extracurricular activities for children and parents alike!

Extracurriculars for children: Throughout the year we offer a variety of classes and experiences such as music classes from local artists and musicians, visits from dentists, fire fighters, tow trucks and more! We also have many parent-led field trips including trips to the pumpkin patch, train station, UCSB touch tank, beach clean up days to name a few!

Extracurriculars for Adults: Parents can attend Mom’s Night Out, Dad’s Night Out, Family hikes, Parent’s Night out and two annual campouts. We also facilitate summer playdates, beach days, potlucks and many more opportunities for children and parents alike to meet and make friends and build community.

Q: How does your school address special education needs?

A: Parents of children with special medical, psychological, or physical needs must meet with the Director to develop a care plan for meeting the child’s needs. SMPCW strives to meet the needs of all children in our program. We believe in helping families advocate for their children’s needs and working together to best support meeting them. We discuss child development information at our weekly parent education class that aids in helping parents with strategies in supporting their child’s development.

Our close teacher/family relationships are a cornerstone of our program and allow for us to work closely with families. We believe in a team approach and collaborate with early intervention specialists to help support the children’s individual needs. The staff observe and assess development throughout the school year to aid in developing individualized goals and come up with a curriculum to help support their individual needs.

(San Marcos Parent-Child Workshop photo)

Q: What opportunities do you provide for parent involvement?

A: Our school thrives on parent involvement! Having an active parent group supports school cohesion and a feeling of inclusion, almost immediately you will feel like a part of our school family!

Parents/caregivers are involved in a variety of ways at SMPCW. Enrolled families participate by working one morning a week on our campus on a day their child is enrolled. Under the supervision of our licensed preschool teachers, parents facilitate our play-based learning philosophy by running child-led activities in our classrooms, including our indoor and outdoor classroom spaces.

Parents are also involved by working on school committees in which members may choose to participate in a way that best suits their talents. We also have a parent-based school board that governs the decision making and vision of the school. Parents also participate in fundraising events throughout the school year to help earn money for our school!

Lastly, families participate in twice a year environment days in which one caregiver from each family comes to school on a Saturday to work on school improvement, cleaning, and repairs.

Q: What is the cost or tuition to attend your school? Do you offer scholarships?

A: Our rates are viewable on our website.

We are able to offer lower rates than many other preschool programs because parent participation is a key element of our program. This allows us to serve a more diverse population of families. Tuition fees are based on the number of days the child is enrolled in school. Children are enrolled either in the morning and/or afternoon session for one, two, three, four, or five days per week, depending upon their age, and on space availability due to licensing constraints. The Director and Membership Chair must approve exceptions to these guidelines.

– 2 1/2 to 3-year-olds may attend 2 – 3 mornings and/or afternoons per week.
– 4 to 5-year-olds may attend 4 – 5 mornings and/or afternoons per week.

Work exchange scholarships are available, these are arrangements to contribute additional time or project work to the school in exchange for a tuition reduction in cases of financial hardship.

Q: Is there anything you would like to share that was not mentioned above?

A: Our campus is in a quiet residential neighborhood and offers easy, safe and stress free parking for drop-off and pick-up.

This year we will be hosting two fundraisers that are open to the public, an Adult Prom at the Creekside Bar and Grill on November 11th and a family-oriented Music Festival at Stow House on May 4th. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram pages for more information coming soon!

We have immediate openings in our preschool, and we are also accepting applications for semesters in Spring and Fall 2024.

Click here for more information about San Marcos Parent-Child Workshop.