The First Cooperative Preschool in Atlanta
A group of Inman Park parents began Inman Park Cooperative Preschool in the basement of the Lizzie Bethel Baptist Church in the early 1980s, but the seed of the idea that became IPCP began to germinate in the 1960s and was nourished by the same community spirit working to better the intown Inman Park neighborhood at the time.
In the late 1960s, the Inman Park United Methodist Church started a group of programs to address the needs of the neighborhood, including a Mother’s Morning Out program and a “Mother’s Club,” which met each week.
According to early IPCP parent and neighborhood resident Diane Floyd, around 1971 “something different started to happen when the church member would knock on doors in Inman Park. She knocked on a door on Spruce Street and they didn’t need bread or monetary assistance but they did need the Mother’s Morning Out program for their two- and three-year-old girls.”
Throughout the 1970s, more early Inman Park pioneers used this program and were teachers themselves. Later, the program’s leadership shifted increasingly to parents using the program and it evolved into a more formal preschool.
In August of 1981, parents decided to move out of the Inman Park United Methodist Church space and into the basement of the Lizzie Chapel Baptist Church on Euclid Avenue. That same year, the name of the program was changed to the Inman Park Cooperative Preschool. There was no debate over calling it a cooperative, because doing so fit the “mindset of the neighborhood.” It was a time of tremendous growth within the neighborhood and according to long-time resident Floyd, everyone was working together to rebuild their neighborhood so it was natural for everyone to work together for their children’s education as well.
During the next eight years, the community of Inman Park Cooperative Preschool continued to strengthen and in 1989, the school moved again, into the current building at the corner of Edgewood Avenue and Waddell Street. In the late 1990’s the lot across the street from our Edgewood building became available and, with the vision of the school’s long-standing director, Patty Bonner, we acquired the space and began to dream. Now our Outdoor Classroom, this one-time gravel lot is a crown jewel of IPCP. Just ask a student what’s their favorite part of IPCP and often you’ll hear a resounding “The OC!”
Most recently, almost 20 years later, Inman Park Cooperative Preschool underwent another big change that included the renovation of its Edgewood building as well as adding a new space at 27-D Waddell Street. As the 2007-2008 school year came to a close, it became apparent that IPCP was overdue for a facelift. Most expected the renovation to be fairly modest, but the deeper parents got into the process, the more they realized that a few coats of paint were not going to be enough.
By receiving a “Grant to Green Community Foundation” grant, IPCP was able to use the summer of 2008 to start from scratch and build a preschool that was both environmentally friendly and fostered the creative and emotional development of its children. In doing this, IPCP not only gutted and completely renovated its former home, but it also doubled in size with the addition of another building across the street.
The Waddell Building (once a photographer’s studio) now houses IPCP’s one and two year olds. Storefront doors and windows were added to allow in more light, and carpet was put down so little knees wouldn’t be bruised. An overgrown outdoor lot (now referred to as the Toddler Garden) was expanded and redesigned so the children would have a dedicated space where they could explore, plant and play.
The cooperative spirit of the school remains strong and is the way all progress, past and present, will be achieved.