Children’s Community Center is the pioneer cooperative nursery school in California, and one of the first in the country. CCC has been operating continuously, if not always formally, since 1927. Several members of the College Women’s Club of Berkeley who attended a seminar on child development that year started it on an experimental basis. Katherine Whiteside Taylor, considered by many to be the founder of parent education nursery schools, gave initial guidance and inspiration.
The Institute of Child Welfare at the University of California assisted the group by providing both advice and funds, because they were eager to promote nursery education and to have its students observe a cooperative at work. Funds from the Scripps and Rockefeller Foundations paid salaries for a trained supervisor and other help for the first year. Later, the Institute paid the school for use of its facilities for observation and experiments.
A home for the Center was found at 1140 Walnut Street, where Miss Fannie McLean generously offered to rent the house, barn, and spacious yard for a nominal fee. The Institute continued to use the school for experimental purposes, and the mothers used the money obtained to provide partial scholarships to many children who would not otherwise have been able to attend. By the end of 1936, however, no more outside assistance was available.
Less than a year later, two interested mothers who had been in the group prevailed upon the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to re-open the school. The WPA paid the teachers’ salaries and gave a small amount toward maintenance and supplies. As many as 80 children were enrolled, and about seven supervisors were provided. During this period, the school was not a cooperative, except for the regular parent education meeting held under the general supervision of the Berkeley Board of Education.
In 1941, when WPA funds were no longer available, the mothers decided to incorporate as the cooperative nursery school. The present articles of incorporation were drawn up, the Executive Board established, and the procedures, rights, and duties of members were set forth. Upon the death of Miss McLean in 1951, the school was able to purchase the property at 1140 Walnut Street from her estate at a very reasonable price. Money to acquire the property was obtained from fundraising events sponsored by the members and from private donations. About a year later, the building was condemned by the Fire Department as unsuitable for a school. However, an extension of five years was granted with the understanding that there could be no alterations or improvements to the property.
During those five years, members launched wholeheartedly into a fundraising campaign to obtain the necessary funds to build a new school. Alumni, members, the community, grants, and foundations were all tapped. When the final evacuation of the old building occurred before the complete monies were collected, the school moved into the nursery center of Garfield School, then to the Berkeley Covenant Church at Hopkins and Carlotta, and to Totland Playground at Virginia and McGee Streets.
In the meantime, plans were drawn up for the new building by an architect/father and construction was begun in the fall of 1958. By the following January, the building was completed. Enrollment was increased, another teacher was employed, and CCC began its 32nd year of cooperative nursery school education in a building designed specifically to provide a well-planned and happy atmosphere for active and creative play, and to comply with regulations of the State Fire Marshall and the State Department of Social Welfare. In the school year 1991-92, the school buildings were retrofitted for seismic safety almost entirely by parent labor.
We welcome any additional information (memories, photos, etc.) regarding the history of the school. If you are an alumnus, or if you can provide some insight to the past, please contact us!