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Sunset Cooperative Nursery School

Sunset Coop, August 2000

Founded: 1940

Current building constructed: 1951, at Lawton Street and Great Highway.

Sunset Cooperative Nursery School started as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project in 1940. Initially known as the Parkside Play Center, the school paid a small fee for the use of a church on Ulloa and 24th Avenue. A nearby vacant lot was donated to act as a play yard.

The WPA covered the salaries of the two teachers, while each mother paid three dollars a month and worked one morning each week. Most of the equipment was made by the parents with some help from the WPA workers. A Mothers' Club was organized, and its first meeting was held on October 15, 1940.

Following the sale of the lot which had been used as a play yard, the school moved to the Boy Scout Hall at 1365 24th Avenue and became the Sunset Pre-School Play Center. In 1945, the name became the now-familiar Sunset Nursery School.

Sunset Cooperative Nursery School, 1951

Faced with the withdrawl of WPA funds in 1942, the parents filed Articles of Incorporation, hired a teacher, devoted more of their time to the school, adjusting the tuition to meet the expenses.

In April 1947, the school was approved by the Coordinator of Adult Education of the San Francisco Unified School District. Provision for the school district funds to supply a teacher was added in 1949. The Building Project launched on January 18, 1949, and in April 1951 the school moved into its present quarters.

Joe Rusk designed and landscaped bare sand into the current play yard. Bill Barrington, another parent, designed and built the distinctive tower house. Over the years, several structures such as the room adjoining the covered yard and the deck around the sandbox, were donated or built by different parents.

Sunset Nursery School was one of the first buildings in the region painted with an abstract design, first done by Barry Deutsch in 1967. Barbara and Roland Pitschell modified and carried the design inside that same year. Henry and Jenny Sultan created the current murals that adorn the north and west sides.

In 1994 the school separated from the Parent Education program of San Francisco Community College and became a private, non-profit institution.

The parents did a major reconstruction of the playground, including the famous "red tower" in June 2002.

Helen Hatchet

Images: 1) Sunset Nursery School, August 2000 (WNP photo); 2) San Francisco News, April 6, 1951 (Courtesy of the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library); 3) Helen Hatchett, teacher, 1960.

Sources: 1) Sunset Coop Parent Handbook, 2000; 2) San Francisco News, April 6, 1951.

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