|Rainbow Preschool parent volunteer Sandy Rieske works with her son, Jack, 4, and Katelyn Czerniak, 3, at the non-profit cooperative. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
There was a time at Rainbow Cooperative Preschool when a child had to be registered in February or there probably wouldn't be a spot open come September.
This year, though, enrollment has dropped so drastically that the parents have organized a public fundraiser to help keep the school afloat. A wine and cheese gala, along with a silent auction, will be held Feb. 7 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Cla-Zel, 217 N. Main St. Tickets are $25.(See details at end of story).
"For the first time we have low enrollment this year," said Rainbow parent Jamie Alt, who was president last year and is a class representative this year. "Our tuition is exactly the cost of what it costs to run Rainbow. So when we don't have enough students, we have a deficit."
Alt said Rainbow has 33 families registered this year; the average is 52. She has a 4-year-old in the preschool, which was much more crowded when her 6-year-old attended.
"It was get in, get your money in right away, otherwise you were going to be on the wait list," said Alt, who also has a 1-year-old.
She theorized that Rainbow's enrollment problems stem from more preschools opening over the last few years in the Bowling Green area, and less 3 to 5-year-olds in the local population to enroll.
The commitment that a cooperative preschool requires could be a deterrent.
According to the Rainbow Web site, a cooperative preschool is owned and administered by the parents. A certified preschool teacher plans and directs the curriculum. Parents serve as classroom aides on a rotating basis. By parents performing the non-professional duties of the school, costs are kept to a minimum while the learning experience is maximized.
Besides working in the classroom, parents plan holiday parties, sign up for Saturday cleaning once a year, attend membership meetings and even contribute all the paper products.
But Alt said when a parent experiences Rainbow, the extra work is worth it.
"Once you start at Rainbow, you stay and you make it work. You see Mrs. K. in action. Everything she does has purpose educationally for them," she said.
"Mrs. K." is Belva Kallenbach, who's been Rainbow's teacher since 1988. She has bachelor's and master's degrees in education from Bowling Green State University, and is licensed in several areas including special education.
Kallenbach said there had been some discussion about revamping Rainbow's curriculum but board members decided to keep it a true cooperative school.
They have also made more of a publicity push with the Cla-Zel fundraiser and appearances at a BGSU STEM event, WBGU-TV children's fair and a music program at the Wood County District Public Library. The board is also adding two school "previews," on an evening during the week and a Saturday morning, in addition to the annual open house in March.
Kallenbach said she also takes every opportunity to talk about the cooperative preschool experience.
"With parent involvement, research indicates if parents are involved in their children's education, children tend to do better in academic areas and test scores," she said.
"This is the foundation of your child's education," Kallenbach said of preschool.
Stephanie Good drives her 3-year-old son, Maximus, from Fostoria to Rainbow for preschool. Good's mom, Jan Schaller, was a charter member of Rainbow in 1980, and Good and her sister were some of the preschool's first students.
"I just don't understand how this happened because this school used to be packed," said Good, who has Facebook friends from her time as a Rainbow preschooler. "Right now it's struggling so badly, we're trying to do everything we can to keep it going. ... I just don't want to see it go under."
Alt assures that there are plans in place if the school continues to struggle financially.
It could move back to a church, where Rainbow originated, or into a different facility, she said. The school is located at 541¬Ω W. Wooster St.
"Right now we are really trying to bring in money to stay in our current facility. We would switch buildings before we shut down," Alt said. "We're willing to fight hard for Rainbow because we love it."
Rainbow wine and cheese event Feb. 7
Rainbow Cooperative Preschool will host a Wine and Cheese Gala with a silent auction on Feb. 7 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Cla-Zel, 127 N. Main St.
The event will include entertainment, wine, cheese and chocolate, and more than 35 gift packages, with a total value of more than $5,000, for auction.
Live music will be provided by Luke James, a former “American Idol” contestant whose latest CD is “Brooklyn Love.”
Tickets are available online at www.rainbowpreschoolbg.org. The attire is business casual and people must be at least 21 to attend.
So far, 70 tickets have been sold. Tickets, which will be available until Wednesday at noon, will not be available at the door.
Jamie Alt, a Rainbow parent who is on the auction committee, said an Ipad will be raffled off with a one in 52 chance — using a deck a cards — to win.
There will also be a 50-50 raffle.
For the silent auction, there are a couple of unusual items. Up for bid will be a 10-person wine tasting party, which includes a sommelier who will come to the winner’s house with wine. Also on the auction block are tickets to an opening night of a theater production with a chauffeur.
There are several packages and gift baskets with the themes: wellness, Bowling Green State University sports, pizza, skating, downtown shoppers, Mud Hens, Walleye, photography and home improvement.
Other auction items include an American Girl doll and a handmade, BGSU Falcon’s stained glass.