Columbia's oldest parent co-op preschool is closing after more than 54 years in business.
Southwest Play School is the first parent-owned and operated preschool in Columbia and has been educating children for almost 50 years. Sharen Garrett started teaching at Southwest 19 years ago. She’s been teaching her whole life, and now plans to retire. Garrett teaches at the co-op weekdays, while parent-volunteers work alongside the children for a set number of days each semester.
“The needs for co-ops have changed," Garrett said. "I just love what I do. I love the children, I love their parents. You know it’d be terrible to go to job every day you didn’t love what you did.”
Jennifer Griffith is a parent-volunteer with a child currently enrolled at the program.
“I considered other co-op programs for her child, but none were like Southwest," Griffith said. "I just loved Mrs. Garrett and her style and she makes them feel very special.”
Southwest Play School rented its building from the Unity Church of Columbia. The church will decide what to do with the location after the school’s last day on May 15. Garrett said she isn’t sure what she will do after retirement, but she is looking forward to the next step in her life.