PIEDMONT -- Thirteen-year-old Trevor Olofson is in eighth grade, but he still has fond memories of the years he spent at Linda Beach Cooperative Preschool in Piedmont.

"I loved (school director) Mrs. Ulrich, she was always nice and good-spirited," Olofson said. "I still see her every now and then."

Olofson said he also enjoyed art and Spanish class -- and physical education on the basketball court upstairs. The preschool boasts quite a few alumni. It opened in 1941 in a building adjacent to Beach Elementary School. By 1947, it had outgrown its original home and moved to the current location in Piedmont Community Church on Highland Avenue.

Volunteer mother Sylvia Sudat chips in to make cupcakes out of Play-Doh with, from left, Camilla Cox, 3, and twins Ashley and Addison Arnest, 3, at Linda
Volunteer mother Sylvia Sudat chips in to make cupcakes out of Play-Doh with, from left, Camilla Cox, 3, and twins Ashley and Addison Arnest, 3, at Linda Beach Cooperative Preschool.

"We have students whose parents attended the school and even one grandmother whose daughters and grandson attended," said Barbara Ulrich, who has directed the preschool for 25 years.

Meghan Sullivan, 36, was a student at the preschool in the 1980s. Her daughter, Keelin, 5, is a current student, and her son, Eoin, 8, also attended.

"I have great memories," said Sullivan, whose sister and cousins were also students. "I am fortunate to have known Barbara since I was a kid. She has dedicated her life to children. She and (teacher) Jean Nelson are both wonderful. I'm blessed that my kids can go there, too."


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The cooperative occupies one spacious room that's divided into specific play areas and also uses an outdoor courtyard that overlooks Highland Avenue. There are 20 kids in the morning preschool and 20 in the afternoon pre-K program. As a enrollment requirement, parents volunteer once a month in the classroom.

Pablo Soto, of San Leandro, whose 4-year-old daughter, Mayeli, attends the school, thinks volunteering is great.

"I love being around kids, and any time I get to hang out with my daughter is awesome," Soto said. "I really like the school and its community of teachers and parents."

Mayeli enjoys school, too.

"I like sharing and doing all that fun stuff," Mayeli said.

Soto said he also likes the school's philosophy of offering structured and unstructured time for play.

"We're a traditional, play-based school," Ulrich said. "Play is very important in their lives. Academics are in there; they are learning through play."

Ulrich said she likes to see children leave the school with a good sense of self-esteem.

"It's never too early to learn that," she said.

Ulrich said it's the parents who "make it happen."

"What's made the preschool run for so long is parent involvement," Ulrich said. "It's a big commitment and a lot of work volunteering, going to meetings and planning our annual fundraisers."

Jean Spees, who was director of the preschool from the mid-1960s until the mid 1980s, said that when Linda Beach opened, it was a relatively new idea. She said the first secret to its success is the parent involvement.

"It's a wonderful idea if you have parents with time to give," Spees said. "It's more difficult these days with so many parents working."

She said the location attracts many parents.

"It's an ideal location -- pleasant and safe, that's very important."

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