A new nursery school is scheduled to open next month using teachers who resigned from a church-affiliated school this spring after church leaders announced that all employees had to profess faith in Jesus Christ to keep their jobs.
"We've got the same staff, same director and the majority of the same parents," Kathy Fisher, a member of the new Sherman Oaks Nursery School's board of directors, said Tuesday.
Fisher said preschool children, including her 4-year-old son, Evan, will begin attending classes Sept. 26 at what is now a summer camp near the corner of Burbank and Van Nuys boulevards in Van Nuys. The fledgling school's board of directors signed a two-year lease with the camp's owner Monday, Fisher said.
Wendy Cummings, the school's director, said the state Department of Social Services is still processing the school's application for a license but is expected to approve the application soon.
The First Presbyterian Church of Sherman Oaks, meanwhile, has hired a new director and is interviewing prospective teachers for the school that was left without a staff after church leaders announced in May that they were adopting a Christian curriculum and that all teachers had to be practicing Christians. The Sherman Oaks Presbyterian Nursery School was affiliated with the church for 24 years but had offered nondenominational instruction.
The church's announcement stunned and angered many parents and teachers, some of whom are Jewish. The school's 14 teachers resigned, and a group of about 75 parents picketed Sunday morning services at the church in protest.
The bitterness between the church and the parents' group is subsiding, Fisher said. But some ill feelings linger. "There's a lot of bad feelings," said Laurette McCook, whose daughter, Becky, 4, will attend the new school.
But McCook also said parents are growing optimistic and excited as they prepare for their school's September opening. Charlene Baldwin, a church member, said the church is also looking forward to the school year. "I think the wounds are healing," Baldwin said.
Fisher said the new school will employ the teachers who resigned from the church school. So far, about 65 of the old school's 82 families have enrolled their children in the new school.
Parents Raise Funds
Cummings said parents raised more than $100,000 through fund-raisers and donations to open the school. Fisher said some parents guaranteed bank loans since the new school had no credit history. Quick fund raising allowed parents to organize a four-week summer session at St. Michael and All Angels Church in Studio City.
Cummings said the parents' group will continue to raise funds. "Yesterday we opened an envelope and there was a $1,000 check," she said.
Susan Spicher, director of the church school, said she has filled almost all of the school's 13 teaching positions. Classes are to begin Sept. 19.
Spicher said the daily curriculum will now include 15-minute Bible-study sessions. The children will also attend weekly chapel services, she said.