Montclair Co-Op School Celebrates 60 years of Progressive Education

Montclair's First Inter-Racial, Inter-Economic, Interfaith Nursery School Celebrates Six Decades

By Jessica Kline, Publisher + Editor Macaroni Kid Clifton-Montclair September 20, 2023

During the 2023-2024 school year, Montclair Co-Operative School will celebrate 60 years of providing progressive education to children. The Co-Op begins its seventh decade with a renewed emphasis on its message of inclusion, community orientation, and joyful learning.

In 1962, Mary Meager, new to Montclair, wanted to start an interracial, non-sectarian, cooperative nursery school similar to one she had belonged to in Michigan. At the same time, Lauretta Freeman was a Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom member. She and the other members met weekly to discuss civil rights issues, fair housing, war, and disarmament. One member, Colleen Leavitt, shared a letter she had received from Mary Meager, who was recruiting potential members for a cooperative nursery school.

Mary and some women from the group began collaborating, and a year later they started the Montclair Cooperative Nursery School. The First Congregational Church offered a space, and the first inter-racial, inter-economic, interfaith nursery school in Montclair had its first home at 40 South Fullerton Avenue.

  • The Montclair Cooperative Nursery School opened its doors in September 1963, to two groups of three- and four-year-old children. Lauretta Freeman was hired as the Teacher-Director, a position she held for 23 years. 
  • In 1970, the nursery program was expanded to include a Kindergarten class. In 1971, the school expanded to include grades one through six. 
  • The Co-Op moved into its current home on Forest Street after purchasing the building from Montclair in 1982. 
  • The first seventh-grade class opened in 2004, and the first eighth grade in 2005. This school year, the 18th eighth-grade class will graduate in June 2024.

Beginning in October 2023 the Co-Op will host several community events to celebrate its milestone year, including:

  • October 21 (Sat) – Forest Street Festival and Book Fair, a block party featuring music, activities, and local businesses, held on and around the Co-Op campus. Prospective families Milk & Cookies Playdate at The Co-Op.
  • December 14 (Thurs) – Festival of Lights, an evening gathering that brings the Co-Op community together to share diverse seasonal traditions based on Co-Op families’ heritage.
  • March 15 (Fri) – 60th Anniversary Tea Party, a get-together reminiscent of the gatherings that helped create and develop the Montclair Co-Op.
  • April 20 (Sat) – 60th Anniversary Celebration, an evening of fellowship and the school’s largest annual fundraiser.

“As a school community, we are excited to open our doors to past and present Co-Op families as we mark our Sixtieth Anniversary,” said Ana Younghusband, Head of School. “This year is a wonderful opportunity to honor our history, celebrate our present, and look forward to our future as we strengthen our impact within our community for years to come.”

Alumni are encouraged to check the school website or contact the school regarding upcoming events and activities.

About the Co-Op 
Established in 1963, Montclair Cooperative School’s educational approach is the belief that children thrive in an environment that emphasizes a progressive approach to learning, a sense of community among students, teachers, and parents, and the development of social skills. For more information about the school, visit

Phone: (973) 783-4955 

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