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Beloved Port Coquitlam preschool inviting former students to celebrate 50th anniversary

PoCo Happy Times Preschool is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a party on March 10 at James Park elementary school in Port Coquitlam
PoCo Happy Times Preschool is celebrating its 50th anniversary on March 10, 2023, at James Park Elementary.

Back in the 1970s, when hair was long and skirts were short, a group of Port Coquitlam mothers came up with the idea of starting their own preschool.

With the support of a local church, the Kinsmen Club, local businesses and the Vancouver Foundation these young mothers started PoCo Happy Times Preschool.

At the time, PoCo Happy Times was one of Port Coquitlam's first parent participation preschools, engaging parents and youngsters in education and socialization.

PoCo Happy Times was first located at Southside Baptist Church, moved to Our Lady of Assumption and is now in the Annex at James Park Elementary, 1761 Westminster Ave,, in Port Coquitlam.

50th anniversary celebration

The first class opened on Sept. 13, 1973.

Now, 50 years later, PoCo Happy Times is still going strong at James Park, enrolling approximately 20 children aged three to five years old.

On March 10 at James Park Elementary, friends of PoCo Happy Times are planning a social gathering for children, parents, teachers and supporters who have been involved with the school over the years.

Gloria Aitken, who taught at the school for 29 years and is now the treasurer, said past participants will meet former staff, including founder Jo Sheridan, feast on cake and peruse class photos from over the years.

"It's important to remember the preschool's contribution to the community," Aitken said.

Today the school is more about parent involvement than parent participation. With parents so busy, many have less time to contribute to the preschool, but help out in other ways, said Aitken, such as doing projects at home.

Preschool for socialization

And while most families need full time daycare for their children, there are still children at home with parents, caregivers or grandparents, who need the socialization preschool can provide.

At PoCo Happy Times Preschool, children enjoy games, songs and activities three mornings a week; they also learn how to get along, Aitken said.

"Socially and emotionally, it’s good for children to attend a preschool or some program before they go into kindergarten," said Aitken.

"They say a baby needs a friend when it’s 10 months old, so you learn 'I share you share'. You need to know how to get along before you get into kindergarten," Aitken added.

The 50th anniversary celebration will take place 6 to 8 p.m. on March 10 in the James Park Elementary gym (1761 Westminster Ave.).