Most marriages don’t last as long as Sunshine Preschool in Oro Valley.
The school, at 9000 N. Oracle Road, will celebrate its 30th anniversary tomorrow. The nonprofit preschool and child-care organization opened in 1984, after founder Sue Trinacty suggested it to her dentists, who wanted to develop their four-acre plaza.
“There were no child-care centers here … and doctors (John) Haymore and (Eric) Hartvigsen thought it would be a good thing for the community, and here we are,” said Trinacty, the school’s director.
The school now serves about 65 families.
“We’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of kids since 1984,” said Trinacty, who said she could have never helped found the school without the dentists’ resources and others who provided assistance.
A typical day for a child at Sunshine can start at 7 a.m. Trinacty said the typical day is “equal parts joy and bedlam.”
“There are staffers here and there are kids who come. You get to play while Mom and Dad have gone to work,” said Trinacty, 67.
By a little after 8 a.m., most children have arrived and put their belongings into their own cubby.
“Kids here are very resourceful. We don’t do for them what they can do,” Trinacty said.
The preschoolers can then have recess inside or out, depending on the weather. At 9 a.m., classes — split up by age — begin.
“The teachers say, ‘Good morning, I love you. The weather is hot, remember to stay in the shade,’” Trinacty said. “‘Let’s do some exercises for 14 minutes.’ They have their private time.”
The day continues with activities children select and complete themselves, snacks, playtime, lunch and more recess. School ends at 1 p.m., but kids can stay for extended care until 5 p.m.
“There’s plenty of diversity in age, so they learn from one another,” Trinacty said.
“There’s a project every afternoon,” Trinacty said. The school has Thursday movie days, complete with popcorn and beanbag chairs. Other times, children participate in enrichment programs.
“We’re looking forward to using the clay in the kiln a lot to use afternoon art classes and so on,” Trinacty said.
The children also participate in theater, arts, crafts, yoga, massage and education in environmental practices, including harvesting rainwater and learning about solar panels.
“We’re never bored,” Trinacty said.
When choosing preschools, Trinacty stressed the importance of looking at every operating factor of a school, including cost, distance and staff.
Mindy Murillo visited several preschools before deciding on Sunshine. She and her daughter took a walk around the school, and decided it was the one.
“She was just really at home,” said Murillo, who began volunteering at the school in February and became a teacher in the summer. Her daughter has finished her time at Sunshine, but Murillo plans on enrolling her younger daughter soon.
“We hope to distinguish ourselves because we’re small, highly trained and we’re very loving and affectionate,” Trinacty said.
The school has an established curriculum tailored to each child.
“I like best the way everybody helps each other out with good lessons and planning,” Murillo said.
The school is licensed for 59 children per day, and has a staff of approximately 18 administrators and teachers. Tuition starts at $375 a month for three days a week.
“We say it’s a family. You’re joining the Sunshine family, and that’s a good thing,” Trinacty said.
Sunshine can provide an extended family to those who don’t have any nearby. Sunshine kids often meet to play at a park, and parents volunteer and stay involved.
“Parents are also really cool and willing to learn more about what their children are doing and how they’re doing,” said Annabelle Loveridge, a senior at Canyon del Oro High School who interned with Sunshine this summer.
“It surprised me how much these little kids know and could do on their own,” said Loveridge, 17, who attended Sunshine preschool as a child and decided to return to learn more about early childhood education as a possible career.
The school also helps children with free health screenings. Parents who specialize in vision, hearing and speech volunteer their services.
“The more we can help a child with screenings, with any sort of referrals or suggestions for extra help, we want to do that so the kids have a really solid start when they leave us,” Trinacty said.
Sunshine emphasizes life skills. Like other preschools, it works to prepare children not only for school at the next level, but also for the next level of childhood. Children learn how to ask questions, help with chores, and care for younger siblings.
“What we want to do here is send our children out of here being confident, capable people,” Trinacty said.