Little Red Schoolhouse marks 60 years

Willa Myslivy, right, chats with a playmate at the chalkboard Saturday during the Lawrence Community Nursery School 60th anniversary celebration, 645 Ala. The celebration at the school, established in April 1948 and also known as The Little Red Schoolhouse, served as a fundraiser.

Children hit the playground for some fun Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008 during the Lawrence Community Nursery School's 60th anniversary at 645 Alabama St.

Parents, children and teachers come together for a song Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008 during the Lawrence Community Nursery School's 60th anniversary celebration at 645 Alabama St.

As a child, Melanie Krumsick played in the yard surrounding Lawrence Community Nursery School.

She ran around the ash tree that still stands in the schoolyard, and she climbed the steps to the tall red building on Alabama Street in Old West Lawrence.

“It’s amazing how much has changed, but I think the ambiance has stayed the same,” said Krumsick, whose daughter Kelsey now attends the school.

Parents and children piled into the nursery school, known as The Little Red Schoolhouse, on Saturday for a 60th anniversary celebration and fall festival fundraiser.

The cooperative preschool began in April 1948. Established by area families, it was the first racially integrated preschool in Lawrence.

“It was a time when a lot of the schools and institutions in Lawrence were segregated, either de facto or by rule,” School Board President David Carttar said. “It was a group of parents from all sorts of backgrounds who wanted their kids to play together. That was the impact that they wanted to make on society.”

The school moved to its present site in 1957. Today, children from about 50 families attend the school where parents play a key role.

“When you join the school, you’re not a client,” Carttar said. “You’re actually a part-owner of the school.”

Parents help maintain the school and take turns participating in the schooldays. “There is at least one, if not two, parents in the classroom each day,” Krumsick said. “It’s really the whole concept of the village raising the child.”

About 75 people were at the school as the celebration started Saturday, and Carttar said he expected a few hundred to come and go over the course of the event.

There were musical performances, artworks on display and baked goods for sale. The children meandered along the school’s hardwood floors, weaving past the legs of their parents. The adults talked with one another as they sampled the food.

Many in the crowd weren’t strangers but close friends who often get together for birthday parties or to take turns baby-sitting one another’s children.

Elizabeth Ross said likes enjoys the comfort of knowing her son Owen Ross’ playmates and their families.

“It’s just a great sense of community that we really enjoy,” she said.