The Kirkland-based Bucky Beaver Pre-school will be closing at the end of the academic year.
Founder Molly Carson decided to close the school in order to be closer to family in Seattle, and as a result will be moving out of the Kirkland house where the preschool has been for 33 years.
“It’ll be a new adventure,” she said. “And I have such glorious memories and gratitude.”
A mother of three, Carson first opened the pre-school after studying early childhood education at the then-Bellevue Community College.
“It’s been like raising a child to me,” she said. “It’s been an amazing journey, starting from a little tiny school.”
The pre-school started out as a way to earn additional income but became a lot more to Carson.
“My husband’s job changed,” she said. “He had a job that no longer existed so he had to start over. I knew I would have to get a job do something that was actually a career. I thought I’ll just open my own school. When we started out more like a daycare. It was just this tiny little place, this tiny little thing. And it just grew and grew and evolved and evolved.”
She eventually switched it to a nonprofit in 2000 in order to avoid certain regulations that would have affected the way the school was managed.
“I found out we needed to change the location and become commercialized or we would have to cut back to four hours,” she said. “I decided to keep it in my home and keep it for four hours. That gave me the ability to have matching funds so we were able to give our employees insurance, benefits.”
The pre-school focused on a lot of things that Carson felt were essential for early childhood education, such as giving children jobs or tasks to perform each day in order to teach them that each person plays a role in making the classroom work.
“It has always been, I think there is a little bit of old fashioned philosophy that I carry along with me,” she said. “We really believe in empowering children, really learning how to be self-sufficient. Confident children are children that have self-esteem. We need an environment that allows them to have accomplishments.”
Another thing she stresses with the children is learning and trying new things.
“They learn respect and how we treat each other and become problem solvers. Rather than saying I can’t or won’t. It’s helping them see this is your opportunity to try something different. It’s unbelievable how children evolve.”
Carson said she also played a very direct role with each student by paying home visits. Along with Heidi Wortinger, who has co-taught with her for 11 years, Carson takes them out in groups for dinner every month to form relationships with them that she says enable her and her employees to teach more effectively.
“It’s having relationships,” she said. “Once you form it then you can really work with a child, and they trust you to know that you really care about them.”
When it came time for her to step down, Carson said she couldn’t see herself handing it over to someone else. The school would have to move to another location, which would mean a change in how things are managed.
“So much of my heart and soul has been in it since the day I started to do it. I knew I couldn’t just hand it off to somebody. I really believe the first five years are just so essential. The years I have them I never question for a moment how serious my job is but how honored I’ve been.”
However, she is still “giving” the school away by donating all the materials to other schools in the area.
“We have so many materials and we have so much, I was able to find nine Head Start schools we could start giving away to those schools,” she said.
For those who either worked at the school or attended it themselves, Carson will be holding a celebration in June.