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Kirkland Preschool finds permanent home after years of struggling to keep doors open

Written By: Kirkland Reporter Staff Writer Matt Phelps
Feb 1, 2012
Article #171


Kirkland Preschool finds permanent home after years of struggling to keep doors open
Carrie Wood/Kirkland Reporter
Youth dig up dinosaur 'bones' in the sandbox at Kirkland Preschool Monday, as school director Carolyn Wirkman (left) and Vivian Webber look on. Carolyn and her husband, Vince, have purchased the real estate where the school currently resides from Webber, her husband Robert, and Maureen Baskin.By MATT PHELPS
Kirkland Reporter Staff Writer
February 1, 2012 · Updated 12:48 PM 

EditorCarolyn Wirkman had prepared herself for a day that in her heart she did not want to see arrive. She was ready to sell the toys, books and furniture at the Kirkland Preschool. She was preparing for the worst.
“I had already bought the colorful garage sale dot stickers to sell everything,” said Wirkman, who is the school’s director. “But now we can use them for art projects.”
That is because Carolyn and her husband, Vince, have come to an agreement to purchase the building and land on which the preschool currently is located in the Norkirk neighborhood.
The school’s lease was to run out in June and the current owners, Vivian and Robert Weber and Maureen Baskin, had to sell the real estate.
“We were thrilled,” said Vivian Weber. “It happened two days before Christmas. It has been a mutually beneficial partnership … It’s a little bit sad but I think it is the best scenario. It is still a tough economic time.”
Wirkman, who began as a volunteer at the school in 1978, said the transition is a little unusual.
“It is kind of odd because I have been here so many years,” said Wirkman. “The property owners always rented to us. Now we will be renting from us.”
She said the outpouring from the community was the biggest reason she and her husband decided to purchase the property.
“There were a lot of heartfelt things that people said about the school,” said Wirkman, who had planned to retire but has put that on hold.
Those emails and messages to the Kirkland Preschool expressed how comfortable families felt with the school and how much their kids loved the experience.
Many parents and families have been extremely loyal to the preschool.
“I personally feel how they do things is perfect for the age level,” said Elysia Heller, a parent who has had two children in the program.
Heller believes so much in the school that she helps to put on the Kirkland Preschool’s annual auction. The proceeds of the auction help to create scholarships.
“I think it is invaluable to have that at this level of childhood education,” said Wirkman.
But she admits that the stress of running the school will now be accompanied by other issues.
“I woke up during the recent windstorm and was worried about the roof,” joked Wirkman, noting that the gazebo on the deck collapsed during the recent snowstorm.
But the biggest issue that has plagued the preschool is now resolved.
The preschool has been a part of the Kirkland community since 1969, first operating from the basement of Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church near City Hall.
The preschool moved in 1993, renting space from Eastlake Assembly of God Church for seven years.
But the church ran out of space and the preschool was told it would have to move again. The Weber's, along with Baskin, purchased the site to rent to the preschool in 2000.
Wirkman said that nothing will change with the school’s teaching philosophy, which was started in 1975 by Elana Duffield.
“We want anyone who wants to attend Kirkland Preschool to be able to,” said Wirkman, noting that the school will continue to have many scholarships available.
Wirkman said the school currently has 57 students enrolled and hopes that the stability of the program will let the Kirkland Preschool get back up to capacity at 66 students.
“Many parents have been leery of continuing with the preschool because they didn’t know how long it would be around,” said Heller. “We had faith and we’re ecstatic.”
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Contact Kirkland Reporter Staff Writer Matt Phelps at [email protected] or 425-822-9166 ext. 5052.
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