In 1968 caring parents and members of the community answered the growing need for preschool education in the area founding the Rutherford Cooperative Day Nursery School (RCDN). The school was created so that young children could have a classroom experience in a nurturing, yet fun and stimulation environment and that their parents could actively be involved in their educational development. Throughout it’s 50 year history, parents in Rutherford and the surrounding communities have chosen RCDN, confident that their child’s first educational experience will be a wondefurl one.
Mrs. Elizabeth (Betsy) G. Van Winkle was among the group of parents that founded RCDN and remained involved with the school, as an active parent, President, teacher and teacher/director for twenty years. Van Winkle told that during that time loval parents arranged play groups at their homes for their preschool aged children and lamented the lack of a structured environment where their children could learn and socialize. At one of these gatherings the parents decided to create a school. Most of the parents were membres of the First Presbyterian Church, so they went to the church first to arrange an agreement to use it’s facilities. “We knew the Sunday school room was not used Monday through Friday and it was set up for the pre-school age group. And, we had access to the huge, empty gym, rain or shine,” said Betsy. When the church agreed, they then obtained licensing from the state and RCDN was formed. Twenty children, all four years old, were the first students at RCDN.
Mrs. Van Winkle states, “The co-op idea hatched mostly because we had no money to pay more than one teacher and needed more adults to aide in the classroom. The dress up clothes came from our closets and most of the items we started with were donated or were available to us through the church.” The easiest and most economical way for them to maintain the school and meet the state’s requreiemtns was for the parents to actively be involved in the operations of the school and to assist the teachers in the classrooms on a rotating basis.
Betsy Van Winkle recalls RCDN with great fondness and even speaks of the school as if shere were still actively involved. She refers to her time at RCDN as “wonderful years” and she loved every moment. “It was so rewarding to see the children blossom.” Her children and grandchildren attended RCDN. Van Winle retired from the school in 1991.
RCDN has come a long way since its early days. There are many, many more toys, plenty of art supplies and lots of books and equipment for the children. Yet, some things are still the same: the caring nature and dedication from the parents and staff and most importantly the enthusiasm and eagerness for learning from the children.