Started as a WPA project in 1940, the Sunset Nursery School was first known as the Parkside Play Center. It was located in a Parkside district church on Ulloa Street and 24th Avenue. A small fee was paid for the use of the church, and the use of a nearby vacant lot for a play yard was donated by the owner. The WPA paid the salaries of the two teachers. Each mother paid $3 per month and worked one morning each week. Most of the equipment was made by the parents with some help from the WPA workers. A Mothers' Club was organized, and its first meeting was held on October 15, 1940.
Following the sale of the lot which had been used as a play yard, another location for the school was found. For approximately 10 years, operating as the Sunset Preschool Play Center, we were housed in the Boy Scout Hall at 1365 24th Avenue. The name was changed to Sunset Nursery School in 1945.
Faced with the withdrawal of WPA funds in November 1942, the parents filed Articles of Incorporation in the State of California, hired a teacher, devoted more of their time to the school, and adjusted the tuition to meet the expenses.
In April 1947, the school was approved by the Coordinator of Adult Education of the San Francisco Unified School District. Provision for the school district funds to supply a teacher were added in 1949. As the school grew, the Building Project was launched on January 18, 1949. This resulted in the construction of the school's latest quarters. Funds were raised by the Participation and Sponsorship Certificates, rummage sales, and the Annual Sunset Fair. The building became the property of the corporation.
The original tower house was designed and built by Bill Barrington in 1965. Another parent, Joe Rusk, designed and landscaped what used to be an almost bare sand yard. In the years since, several new structures have been donated or built by different parents: the room adjoining the covered yard, the deck around the sandbox, the dividing planter box, and many improvements made to the existing structures.
Sunset was one of the first buildings to be painted with an abstract design, first done by Barry Deutsch. This design was modified and carried inside by Barbara and Roland Pitschell in 1967. We later had a mural by Henry Sultan, with a design by Jenny Sultan on the north wall and Henry's design on the west wall.
By 2007, the school building was more than 55 years old, and time and the elements had taken their toll. An anonymous donation of $500,000 gave Sunset the necessary resources to embark on a rebuild project. That generosity launched the Capital Campaign, with a fundraising target of $1.1 million to cover the costs of construction and temporary relocation.
Rich Gillern designed a beautiful and functional space for our children to grow and learn. With input from our teachers and community, the design team integrated the original building’s concepts with a functional modern structure. Construction of the new Sunset Cooperative Nursery School was completed by Noel Fox and the caring professionals of American Clover Construction.
The Capital Campaign gave more to our community than a new building: It created a new home for the school, a safe and happy place for children to explore and thrive. Our children were the motivation behind this project. The building now reflects the vibrant life of the Sunset community.
Sunset has been most fortunate in the talent and energy with which parents have enriched our environment.