Cooperative preschools are operated by a community of families who want to be involved in their children's first educational experience. Parents and caregivers assist in the classroom, take on jobs to help the school function smoothly, participate in decision-making, and learn more about development and parenting from teachers and other early childhood experts.


Children benefit from:

- Play-based, child-led learning

- A low child:adult ratio in the classroom

- A community of adults supporting the whole family

- Daily opportunities to explore the world and build social-emotional skills

- Creating a positive attitude toward school 

- Developing a love of learning

Hear from a PCPO member about

why their family chose a co-op!



PCPO is a nonprofit organization of more than 50 cooperative preschools and kindergartens with a membership of more than 1,500 children and teachers. 


PCPO was founded in 1956 by eight Portland preschools to promote the exchange of ideas among schools and to aid in the forming of new co-ops.   PCPO is an affiliate of Parent Cooperative Preschools International (PCPI), whose purpose is to cross state and national boundaries sharing the philosophy that "children, parents, and teachers go to school together, each learning from the other."


A cooperative preschool is a program that is operated by a group of parents who take an active interest in their children's first educational experience. Parents help the teacher in the classroom, are given opportunities for education, and are involved in decision-making.


Benefits a Co-op Preschool Offers Children:

- A wider world to explore and enjoy

- Encourages self-esteem and self-confidence

- Above average adult to child ratio in classroom

- Children play and learn to respect others

- Expressive materials, games and art activities

- Builds a positive attitude towards school 


PCPO board and employees are current and former preschool parents and teachers (and sometimes alumni!) who are passionate about play-based education and cooperative community. 

2022-23 PCPO board

President: Kelli Barnett-Patterson

Treasurer: Crystal Lawrence and Kathy Ems (special assignment)

Secretary: Bridget Thompson

Penny Berrien

Laura Dickson

Kristina Johnson

Lian Nakano

Tara Martin

Cathy Vause

PCPO empowers its members to build and sustain thriving, diverse, cooperative preschool communities where children learn through play.  ​


  • Fostering the development and success of cooperative preschools

  • Strengthening and expanding the philosophy of the parent-teacher cooperative

  • Promoting developmentally appropriate play-based preschool programs

  • Supporting member schools to fulfill the mission of providing play-based education

  • Providing and encouraging parent education


PCPO assists newly forming schools:

  • How to find a location

  • How to incorporate

  • How to file for tax exempt status

  • How to set up financial records and plan the budget

  • How to write by-laws

  • How to hire a teacher


PCPO supports existing schools:

  • New officer training workshops

  • A central file of resource and referral information on many topics

  • Accident, liability, fire, and fidelity bonding insurance to qualified schools

  • Advice and guidance on specific problems

  • Resource Handbook, an annual publication of key information


PCPO encourages communication among schools:

  • Six general meetings with breakout groups

  • Teachers' meetings

  • Presidents' council meetings

  • CONNECTION, a weekly newsletter

  • Member Directory, a listing of all member schools 


PCPO educates parents and teachers:

  • Annual conference with workshops for parents and educators

  • Teachers' meetings

  • School Crawl

  • Teacher salary survey and contract support