Carmel Co-op


Parents of tots take education into their own hands

By Mark Ambrogi

As the creator of Carmel Moms Group on Facebook, Natasha Shallon frequently got asked about preschool options in Carmel.

“They want something secular because they are going to public school eventually,” she said. “They want to participate and for it to be more play based.”

Shallon wanted the same thing for her child London and couldn’t find any options. She didn’t put London in a preschool until she was four because she couldn’t find anything she really loved in Carmel.

“You can find one (secular) or the other (play-based), but to find there wasn’t an option,” Shallon said.

Now there is. The Carmel Cooperative Preschool, a nonprofit school, for ages 2 and up will open in the fall at 3085 W. 116th Street. The group is renting classroom space from the Congregation Shaarey Teflilla. Families of all faiths are welcome. Since the school is on the westside of Carmel, the school could also be attractive to Zionsville families as well.

Mary Rose Simons, who is the co-president of a Meridian Hills Cooperative and a Carmel resident, is the Carmel Cooperative director. Shallon’s daughter London, 5, is in the Meridian Hills Cooperative Nursery School but will go to kindergarten in the fall. Her son Mars, who turns 2 in August, has enrolled in the Carmel Cooperative Preschool for the fall.

Simons’ son Ari, 3, attends Meridian Hills and will switch to the Carmel program, in the fall. Carmel Cooperative Preschool, a member of the Indiana Council of Preschool Cooperatives, will be the 11th Cooperative Preschool in the Indianapolis area. There are 340 students in the 10 preschools at this time. The Carmel preschool will start with morning classes (9 to 11:30 a.m) three days a week (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday).

Simons’ son Owen, 5, previously attended Meridian Hills Cooperative in First Congregational Church, 7171 N. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis.

“They make sure kids are allowed to be kids so we have a play-based environment where they are allowed to be creative and explore,” Simons said. “They learn conflict resolution and problem solving and all those good things they should be doing in preschool.”

The cooperative hires a teacher, certified in professional development, and the parents serve as the assistant teachers. Each parent comes in two or three days a month as part of their commitment. The parents are given training in child development and conflict resolution, Simons said.

Simons, who taught at the middle school and high school levels before having children, said the parents form a board to make decisions.

“So all the big-picture decisions if we were going to expand or make a new program are made by parents,” Simons said.

Simons said the classroom sizes are limited to 10 children, but if demand is high the school can have as many as four classrooms at their site.

“We have room to grow,” Simons said. “Ten kids in a class is good because we can really focus on them.”

For east-side Carmel resident Shallon, the new cooperative is just a couple of minutes closer than Meridian Hills site but she likes that most of children will be from Carmel, where Aril will be attending elementary school.

“The great thing about a co-op is you build a community,” said Shallon, who is helping with the cooperative’s website. “We go on play dates, get to know the families. Now we get to know the families and they live 50 blocks farther south.”

Shallon has enjoyed volunteering in the cooperative.

“I really liked the idea of being able to participate in the classroom,” Shallon said. “My daughter has a hard time with transitions so having me there the first few times really made her feel comfortable. In co-op you get to know the parents and families so that has really helped her, too, to feel she is at home.”

Shallon recently volunteered on Feb. 13, taking part in the kids making valentines and sending them through a mini pretend post office..

“It’s neat to see how they interact with their peers,” Shallon said.

The Carmel Cooperative Preschool will be maintain the standards of the Indiana Council of Preschool Cooperatives for teacher and parent training and class size. Cooperative Preschools have been in Indiana since the 1950s.

Cooperative preschools

Nationally, co-ops are a growing trend when it comes to schooling children. This comes from those preparing to homeschool and those that will send their children to public school. The trend-finding group POPSUGAR recently did a study on co-ops, and as writer Patricia Anne-Tom states: “The foundation for co-op preschools was laid in 1916, by a group of faculty wives at the University of Chicago who were looking for a way to provide social education for their children and parent education for themselves. Nowadays, the model has evolved: parents assist the professional teachers in the classroom on a rotating basis, participate in the educational program for all the children, and share in the administration and maintenance of the school.”

She notes that co-ops are the right choice if, as a parent, you:

  • Want more bonding time with your preschool-aged child.
  • Have time to give, but not deep pockets.
  • You want a more active approach to shaping your child’s education.


Open houses set

There are two open houses set for the Carmel Cooperative Preschool, from 4 to 7 p.m. on Feb. 26 and 1 to 4 p.m. on March 1.The cost is $75 a month for one day, $125 per month for two days a week and $160 a month for three days. Registration is ongoing. More information can be found carmelcooperative.organd

About Mary Rose Simons

Age: 33

Personal: Originally from Detroit. Bachelor’s in education from Central Michigan and master’s in educational leadership from IUPUI. Taught English and German at Lawrence Central High School and Fountain Square Academy. Lived in Indianapolis area for 10 years, moving to Carmel two years ago.

Favorite type of music: Folk.

Favorite thing to do with kids in Carmel: “Definitely the parks. We live close to West Park.”

Favorite restaurants:  “We like going to the ethnic restaurants in downtown Carmel. We like pad Thai and Bazbeaux and the kids can run around the Monon.”

Hobbies: Gardening.


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