The PSP Guide to Starting a Preschool Co-op

The PSP Guide to Starting a Preschool Co-op

(download the PDF version HERE)


It is a good idea to check in with a lawyer or other professional legal services provider before setting up a pre-school. You must not rely on information on this website as an alternative to legal advice.  If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you should consult a lawyer or other professional legal service. This page is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional legal or financial services. 


Hiring a Teacher

Where to find one:

·       Craigslist

·       Career Centers at Bank Street, Sarah Lawrence, Teacher’s College

Screen a resume for:

·       Years of experience in the age group of the co-op’s students

·       Experience developing curriculum

·       Lead teaching experience


·       Price can vary widely depending upon the means of your group. A starting point of negotiation might be about $40/hr.


The Teacher Contract

If you decide to enter into a contract with your teacher, make sure that the duties are clearly listed. Things to consider:

·       Whether or not your teacher will be compensated for sick days or for vacation times.

·       Lay out a start and stop day and whatever vacations your school will observe and state whether or not she will be compensated for those days (and how much--full pay? half?)

·       If your teacher decides to quit during the year will payment be withheld? Do you expect a notice of termination?

·       If you decide the teacher is not a good fit, will you give notice and any severance?


Additional Teacher Duties

·       You need to lay out what you expect from your teacher outside of classroom instruction time.

·       You need to determine whether this is part of the agreed upon salary or whether it will be additional:

o   Is the teacher expected to communicate with parents about student progress? Weekly, monthly, quarterly?

o   What kind of information do you want to hear (Do you want an overview of the classroom like what they are doing?

o   What do they like learning? Or do you want to hear general things about kids -- at this age sharing is a big challenge and we are dealing with it in this manner?).

o   Is the teacher expected to set up and take down the classroom or will the families assume that responsibility?

o   If you have regular meetings, do you expect the teacher to attend?


Curriculum & Classroom Considerations

Before starting you should:

·       Have a goal for your students and to help guide your teacher.

·       Do you want them to start learning ABCs or numbers?

·        Is your primary concern that the children become accustomed to drop offs?

·       Do you want them to focus on sharing?

Selecting students:

·       Groups work best when they are small (no more than 6) and close in age (6 months apart). It helps to have an equal number of boys and girls.

Setting up the Classroom:

·       Map out how to arrange your classroom.

·       Determine what types of toys should be out and which should be kept away.

·       Toys that light up or make noise should not be included in the classroom pool.

·       Sharable toys such as blocks, puzzles with large pieces, dress up items are good to have on hand.

·       Determine whether such items are available at each home or whether your co-op should invest in them.

·       If you rotate through each member’s home, any items purchase by the group would need to be transferred so keep those items to a minimum. Each household can supply things like paper, crayons to cut down on the amount of items that need to be transferred.

·       Materials to purchase (TBC)


Space Logistics and Legalities

·       The cost of renting a space in Park Slope ranges from about $25 to $35 an hour.

·       Childcare is regulated by the city and the state. You can read about that here:

·       Do you have insurance? It can be tough to find an insurer because a co-op’s definition is so loose. But if you do find someone who will insure you, is there anything you need to say about it explicitly (itemize it under costs for example)? Are you going to include a liability waiver?



Things to consider:

·       How your co-op will function so you can inform families before they sign on.

·       Do you want a top down approach with one family or two making all the decisions? If so, be very clear on your costs from the outset and the goals of your school.

·       Do you want to have a democratic structure where some type of consensus must be reached? If so, how will you reach consensus when things arise? Will you vote by email only in person? Will there be monthly meetings?

·       If everyone is expected to contribute time to run the school, here are some positions to consider:

o   Treasurer -- to collect fees and distribute payment to the teacher and the space

o   Secretary -- to keep minutes, handle correspondence to the parents

o   Scheduler-- if you rotate homes, this person might figure out who goes when; or if you have a parent as an assistant, this person might create that schedule

o   Supply manager -- someone to monitor the toys and paper and make sure they get to where they need to be if you transfer between homes and to track any consumable items.

·       It is reasonable to estimate about 4 hours a month of parent time to include a monthly meeting and the time involved with each activity. That may increase if you have parents assist in class.


Financial Considerations

·       Deposit - if you are collecting one, list how much is expected and what it covers. Is it tuition for the first month? Any additional months? Does it cover supplies?

·       Tuition - How much is tuition and what is it covering? Itemize the cost of the teacher, rent if applicable, any cleaning fees, etc.

·       Payment - How should payment be received? Paypal? Cash? Check? And who should it be made out to?

·       Additional costs - Will there be expenses that are not covered in the tuition or deposit? Who will pay them, how many would there be? It’s hard to predict and, if you don’t know, you shouldn’t guess. At the very least be clear they may exist and discuss with your teacher what might be required, price check it and at the very least be able to give families a verbal estimate the best you can.

·       Tuition responsibility - Do families get money back if they are on vacation or if there are too many sick days or are they responsible for every month in full? Is there a penalty if they are on vacation during a payment cycle or if they miss a payment?

·       Withdrawal - If a family chooses to leave, what happens to any money they’ve invested? Do they get any materials back? Any deposit or tuition? If there is a hardship is there any room for negotiation or will you just adopt a strict policy? Or is it dependent upon finding a replacement family (as in money will be refunded if a replacement family found)? In that case, if you decide that you don’t want another family to replace the one leaving what happens to any money or materials?

·       Dismissal by the school - if it turns out that the family or child isn’t a good fit, will they get a return of any money or materials? Or will there never be any such dismissal?


The Contract

·       If you need a school contract template, you can find many on the web:

·       When you are tailoring it for your needs, it’s best to start by thinking about some major issues that can come up and then lay them out for participating families so they can be explicitly agreed upon in a contract before school begins.

·       The contract should also lay out the start and end dates and any vacation days.

·       The contract should lay out everything discussed in the is guide.