Congregational Preschool reaches milestone

Published 6:26 am Monday, July 26, 2010

Congregational Preschool has been an institution in Austin for so long that some of its first students have lived long enough to see their grandchildren attend the school.

With the start of this school year, the school will meet a major milestone when it celebrates its 45th anniversary.

Established in 1965, Congregational Preschool was the first preschool built in Austin. The First Congregational Church formed a committee at the time to discuss filling the schooling gap. The committee voted to offer the preschool in the church as a nondenominational service to everyone in Austin.

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The preschool has continued to serve the community ever since, expanding with additions like a playground and additional courses.

“We had no idea that it would be such a success from the start. It just kept growing to include more ages and classes,” said Joyce Mlinar, former member of the preschool’s first school board.

Mlinar said the teaching at the preschool has also become more structured since it opened.

The preschool offers early education with an extra emphasis on music and science. Students engage in full body movement while singing and outdoor explorations when studying insects, all part of the preschool’s secondary emphasis on physical development.

The preschool is unique in its focus on improving children’s critical thinking, said Congregational Preschool director Meredith Martin. The classes focus on a new letter each week by placing a mystery item that starts with the letter in a box. The students must determine what the item is by feeling it with each of their five senses. The preschool also holds specialty days to emphasize lessons in creative ways.

“We have done stuff like have a camp out at school. When we did the V for Vacation day, it was in the middle of winter and we cranked the heater up to 85 degrees. Everybody wore bathing suits, learned the hula and tasted exotic fruits,” said Martin.

Congregational remains a constant for early education in Austin. This year, an additional kindergarten prep class will be offered.

“We have a long tradition in Austin. Its always been a preschool where we wanted it to be a loving experience for the child and the family,” said Carolyn Bogott, who served as the preschool’s last director. “We have many parents that are now bringing their children here, and that’s something very special.”

Congregational classes run from Labor Day to Memorial Day. Regular preschool is offered Thursday and Friday from 9 to11:30 a.m. Two kindergarten prep classes are offered Monday through Wednesday from 9 to 11:30 a.m. or noon to 2:30 p.m.