When mother Jane Leishman considered what nursery she should send her son to in Leaside, she said it was an easy decision.
“I had heard so much about it that I didn’t even look at other places,” she said in reference to Mrs. Park’s School, which recently celebrated 50 years of caring for kids in Leaside.
The mother of three said the institution has such a good reputation in the community, she didn’t need to look far for positive referrals.
“I had friends who had gone there before, so I knew from them that it was still a good place,” she said.
It also helps that her husband attended when he was a wee lad. Now eight years after her oldest son, Marshall, attended the school, she’s the only one in the Leishman brood not to have spent her formative years at Mrs. Park’s.
“Marshall started when he was two-and-a-half and from minute one he loved going there,” Leishman said. “So it was a natural transition.”
Mrs. Park’s Nursery School Inc. was established in 1961 by Joan Park, who has since passed away. It runs out of Leaside United Church and is currently owned and operated by Mary Dwan King.
King took over the school about 15 years ago, shortly after Park retired. She said the Leishman family is a good example of how the school has played an important role in many Leaside families’ lives.
“We have many two-generation families in our school, where the parents have attended and now the children attend,” she pointed out. “It’s sort of like a Leaside tradition for families.”
One reason both parents and children are drawn to Mrs. Park’s School is their emphasis on play-based learning, King said.
“If you were to ask your child what they did all day at nursery school, they would say they played,” she said. “They would be absolutely right, but their play is directed and monitored by us to provide them with the basis for everything they need for language development, organization and (other life skills).”
The children also receive a lot of individual attention. While the provincial standard is eight kids to one instructor, Mrs. Park’s School aims for a ratio of six to one, she said.
King continuously strives to make the atmosphere at the school as bright, cheery and welcoming as possible.
“There’s a sense that it’s a very friendly, warm environment, and people comment on that when they come into the school,” she said.
One of King’s proudest accomplishments in her time at Mrs. Park’s School is a music CD they produced for the school’s 45th anniversary. It has grown to be very popular, she said.
And while the surrounding community of Leaside may have changed much over the last 50 years, the fact the school still gets glowing reviews is telling.
“After 50 years, it proves that paying close attention to what children need never goes out of fashion.” King said.
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