A rare and special learning place is moving
Beloved Dundas preschool prepares to relocate
For those children and adults alike who have walked through the stardust at St. Mark’s Preschool in Dundas, the idea of moving it, the whole enchanted experience of it, feels like more than a simple relocation.
It’s a dislocation. Actually, it’s like a heart transplant.
The much-beloved fixture on the landscape of local early childhood education, ensconced for 55 years in the spacious, big-windowed, highceilinged basement of St. Mark’s Church (corner of Creighton and Governors Road), is leaving home.
The church, which has other plans for the space, gave notice last year, so Sue Andersen and the preschool are packing up. In September they’ll be at Yorkview Public School, as Dundas Valley Co-operative Preschool.
My girls went there. I can see their preschool faces, cheeks glowing with exertion and glee, as they took part in the annual tricycle race outside — if you let yourself, you could believe you were in Monaco at the Grand Prix.
I can still picture their mincing steps as they balanced cups on saucers and carried them to tables, in costume (from the purple/yellow wardrobe chest), at the Mother’s Day Tea.
There was pirate day, pyjama day and, of course, Mickey Mouse Disco — highlight of the year when strobe lights and mirror balls came out, music came on and parents, kids and teachers alike turned up, at night, to get down. We learned our best moves at St. Mark’s.
The preschool has always been a tour de force of teamwork but Sue, supervisor/teacher, represents the leadership and continuity of the place, decade over decade — she arrived in 1981 — and generation upon generation.
I recently sat down with her and current preschool president Zoe Green. On the little chairs of course. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Sue sit in an adult chair.
“It’s hard,” she admits, “a difficult transition. Look at this place.” She motions at the size of it. The tall windows afford lavish helpings of sunlight, great gulps of it. Cupboards, cabinets, chests and tables, books, art supplies, play equipment, all the resources that have accrued to the place.
Everything a child could want. And that’s only the half of it. Already much has been packed away. There’ll be a grand sale June 10 — including photo albums for alumni to pick through (tearfully, I’m sure). No room for it all at Yorkview.
The new space, still in Dundas, is smaller, says Zoe, whose two boys are at St. Mark’s. But they were glad to find it, with help of the school board and trustee Greg Van Geffen.
“We’re encouraged by the response. They put a banner up (at Yorkview), we’re getting inquiries already and are 50 per cent full for September.”
The move isn’t the first challenge for the preschool. Once kindergarten
got funded in Ontario, years ago, preschool enrolments tended to drop. It’s a struggle. There have been shifts in pedagogy. Less plastic and primary colours, more wood and homelike ambience. St. Mark’s, soon to be Dundas Valley Co-op Preschool, has adapted.
There’s ever evolving legislation: safety, logistics, codes. Sue puts a huge binder on her lap. “This is the bible.” It’s all meticulously organized. That’s Sue. That’s the preschool she symbolizes. A place of such friendships, adults and kids, forged over the years and loyalty (the Goede boys, now in their teens, still helping set up and take down).
The windows at the new place, whatever size, will be as big and light-filled as Sue and team make them with their imaginations, the ceilings as high.
So this is not a goodbye but a housewarming wish. And a thank you. But how do you thank someone who has helped garden your children up from the ground, with such care, such sprinkling, such light, such fun?
Well, as the song says, if she wanted the moon … but we’d rather give our hearts to her. To Sue … with love.
Supervisor and teacher Sue Andersen helps Maleia Clark onto a climber at St. Mark’s Preschool in Dundas. After 55 years at St. Mark’s Church, the preschool will operate from its new home in Yorkview Public School this autumn.