Fostering Lifelong Enthusiasm for Learning Since 1963


The Montclair Cooperative School began 50 years ago when Mary Meager, new to Montclair, wanted to start an interracial, nonsectarian, cooperative nursery school similar to one she belonged to in Michigan.

At the same time, Lauretta Freeman was a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She and the other members met weekly to discuss issues of civil rights, fair housing, war and disarmament. One member, Colleen McCarthy, shared a letter she had received from Mary Meager who was recruiting potential members for a cooperative nursery school. The interested women of the group began to work with Mary to start the year-long preparation of the Montclair Cooperative Nursery School.

Many had approached several churches in town to suggest that a church support a cooperative nursery school without charge as a service to the community. The First Congregational Church agreed and the first interracial, intereconomic, interfaith nursery school in Montclair had a 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 which she held for 23 years. In 1970, the nursery program was expanded to include a kindergarten class, and the name of the school was changed to the Montclair Cooperative School, Inc.

In 1971, the parents decided to expand the school to include grades 1 through 6. The additional space needed was found in the nearby Unitarian Church at 67 Church Street, Montclair. After much arduous planning the new “Upper School” opened with two mixed-grade classes. The nursery and kindergarten programs, known as the “Lower School,” continued to be housed at the original location.

During this time, periodic attempts were made to find a new location to rent or purchase, so that the school could be unified under one roof. Finally, in 1982, a former grammar school that had been converted to governmental offices was purchased from the town of Montclair. In September 1983, after a year of heroic effort by parents and staff, the Montclair Cooperative School celebrated its twentieth year in its new home at 65 Chestnut Street,, the new Upper School program of two classes of mixed grades was organized and the nursery and kindergarten program became known as “Lower School”.

The school continues to grow. A new gymnasium, computer lab and classrooms were added in 1990. 1994 saw the completion of another major renovation resulting in the addition of a library, a classroom and new spaces to house the computer lab and art room. In 2003 the decision was made to expand to 7th and 8th grade. Our first 7th grade class opened in 2004 and our first 8th grade in 2005. To accommodate our new classes, the library and 1st grade moved to a redesigned space on the first floor and an art and music studio was created next door at 150-152 Forest Street.