The Woodroe’s New Beginning Project
Since opening their doors in 1974…
Woodroe Woods School has provided preschool thru 2nd grade programs for more than 5,000 students and families to the Castro Valley/Hayward/Tri-Valley area.
Over the years, Woodroe became renowned for its rural setting, play-based philosophy, and acceptance of all children. Woodroe teachers became known for their empathy and compassion, leveraging their combined ~300 years of experience to instill a strong foundation for both learning and integrity in the children. Woodroe students became known for having self-confidence and self-respect, understanding that while there are standards to be met, there are different ways to achieve, and exceed, these standards. Woodroe alumni became known for being successful in their academic and business careers, some returning to Woodroe to teach, to enroll their own children, or both. Each year, Woodroe serves approximately 160 families, which includes families who send their children to Woodroe generation after generation, knowing firsthand how unique and valuable the Woodroe Woods experience is for young children.
In 2016, the directors retired and sold the property that Woodroe had occupied for most of its existence. Unwilling to lose such a community milestone, teachers, parents, students, administrators, and alumni, banded together to form Woodroe’s New Beginning, a group dedicated to the effort of keeping the Woodroe legacy going strong.
Why keep this school open?
The reasons are many. Aside from the early childhood education crisis in the area, Woodroe Woods is in a class of its own:
- The student population is extremely diverse not just in terms of race, but also in culture, religion, and family style, which fosters a very rich and inclusive environment where students are encouraged to embrace their differences and develop respect for both themselves and others.
- The exceptionally committed staff has virtually no turnover. Most of its teachers have been with the school for 10 or more years, with 5 teachers having worked there for over 20 years. This type of longevity naturally breeds a sense of family among the staff members and in the classrooms, and engenders an environment filled with love, patience, and compassion.
- The program is heavily play-based, while nimble enough to become more challenging, depending on age and maturity of the students. Through play and hands-on activities, children are guided in a very effective learning path that encompasses academics and invaluable life skills such as respect, self-exploration, esteem, compassion, sense of community, responsibility, and freedom to accept challenges and take on risks, all within a safe and nurturing environment. Academics are rigorous, enriched with in-depth exploration of topics, field trips, guest appearances, science experiments, culinary experiences, projects, and a big emphasis on reading, math, and written and oral expression.
- Playtime is largely spent outdoors. Toys and structures are remarkably – and intentionally – low-tech and classic, with make-believe props stemming from everyday objects and exercise equipment. Sports are seamlessly integrated in the daily routine and presented as a way to learn to collaborate, play fair, and have fun. Sand and bark fill the shoes of very happy and dirty children daily.
- The summer program is a very dynamic and sought after experience, where a generous amount of seasonal teachers come back every year and children up to 4th grade are allowed to attend. It culminates with the “epic campout”, which includes an evening full of games, singing custom-made songs in front of a bonfire and sleeping in tents on the lawn. Some of the older children are encouraged to be “counselors in training” and given increased responsibilities, including helping care for younger children.
- The school is financially solid while being affordable and offering generous sibling discounts. There is consistently a long waiting list.
Since September 2015…
We have been scouting locations along the 580 corridor in hopes of purchasing property as a permanent site for Woodroe Woods School. Despite researching numerous sites, rallying support with the offices of Nate Miley, Eric Swalwell, and Alameda County Planning, and receiving support from an investment company to place an offer on a potential property (we were unfortunately outbid), our search continues.
As it currently stands, there is already a severe shortage of early education and childcare options in Hayward, Castro Valley and the surrounding areas. In a 2014 report, the Alameda County Early Care and Education Planning Council listed Castro Valley, Hayward, San Leandro, and San Lorenzo zip codes as Priority 1 and 2 of needing early education and child care funds to provide for underserved populations.
Given that existing schools and child care centers are at capacity, it is important for Woodroe Woods to continue operations in the long term to minimize the impact on the community. The challenges are many. Being a small business and private organization, it is difficult for Woodroe’s New Beginnings to compete with developers when looking to purchase or lease land, despite that a high demand for housing is accompanied by a high demand for quality schools and childcare services. We have limited resources, as all volunteers are balancing full-time jobs and personal family obligations in addition to making Woodroe’s New Beginnings a priority. Even after a new location is secured, it will take a lot of work to finalize contracts, acquire permits/licenses, purchase equipment, prepare the classrooms, develop any necessary updates to the land, conduct studies, and so on, so any and all support will help us be successful.
In December 2015, President Obama signed the “Every Student Succeeds Act” into legislation (http://www.ed.gov/ESSA). One of the core focuses of this legislation is to “provide more children access to high-quality preschool, giving them the chance to get a strong start to their education”. We as a society have finally recognized the vital importance of a right start. Preschool sets the building blocks for learning in place, ensuring success in later school years.
Our local community is stronger because of Woodroe Woods. We are dedicated to finding a new home where Woodroe Woods can continue to provide premier early education and child care in Hayward, Castro Valley, and the surrounding areas.
If you’d like to help, please contact us with any potential leads on properties, financial backing, or any other networking opportunites that would assist our cause.