By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
There really was a little red schoolhouse, but it’s long gone. The agency that took its name from the place — Little Red School House — has a broader mission than it had at the start. It’s time for a new identity.
“It’s been 50 years. We’re no longer going to be Little Red,” said Diane Perry, development manager for Little Red School House.
Since 1963, the organization has helped young children who have developmental disabilities or delays. All families served by the agency over the years are invited to a Little Red School House 50th anniversary celebration. The party, with a barbecue, live music and games, will be held from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday at Willis Tucker Park in Snohomish.
It will include “a big announcement — we are changing our name,” Perry said Thursday.
Terry Clark, executive director of Little Red School House, wasn’t ready to share the new name for this column. The announcement, complete with a new banner and musical introduction by songwriter Tim Noah, will happen at Saturday’s picnic.
“It’s going to be a fun community event,” said Perry. She has a 16-year-old daughter with Down’s syndrome and autism who was helped by Little Red School House as a young child.
The name Little Red School House suited the group’s beginnings, but doesn’t fit today. Clark said a caller recently asked if her son could come to the school. “We don’t have a school,” she said.
What Little Red School House has are programs that reach children — birth to school age — all over Snohomish County, and now in north King County. The agency contracts with six area school districts, the Snohomish County Division of Developmental Disabilities and the state Infant Toddler Early Intervention Program.
It also provides early intervention for at-risk children in area homeless shelters, transitional housing and on the Tulalip Reservation. More than 2,000 children are now being served by Little Red School House programs.
“We’re a huge agency,” Perry said. “We have outgrown the name.”
Little Red School House works largely through home visits. In 2012, the agency took over the Nurse-Family Partnership from the Snohomish Health District. In that program, nurses visit young first-time mothers and their children.
This year, Little Red School House launched Parents as Teachers, a parenting program to help families in area homeless shelters or transitional housing. Among other Little Red School House offerings are early-intervention services and drop-in play groups. “We have very few programs where people come to us,” Clark said.
That’s a big change from the early years. Before public schools were required to provide special education, the agency ran a school.
Little Red School House was started in 1963 by the South Snohomish County Exchange Club. The schoolhouse was first on Highway 99 and 176th Street SW. The building was later moved to 164th Street SW in the Lynnwood area.
“The program stayed in this little red schoolhouse until 1977. It was literally a school, and served kids of all ages,” Clark said. Its current home is part of Children’s Village at 14 E. Casino Road in Everett.
Clark said the agency has evolved from only helping children with documented disabilities to serving those at risk of learning problems if they don’t have early intervention. “That really started in the ’90s,” she said.
Kathy Davis’ daughter Stephanie, now 29, is one of thousands helped over the past half-century by Little Red School House. Stephanie Davis has multiple disabilities and health issues, her mother said. At 7 months old, she first went to Little Red School House, and received services until starting school in the Edmonds district.
She now lives in a supported-living home in Everett. Her parents live in Edmonds.
For Stephanie’s 30th birthday, on Nov. 17, her mother said the party will be at the Little Red School House facility on Casino Road.
Until she was 3, Stephanie went to Little Red School House for physical, occupational and speech therapy. She was also in a babies’ play group.
Without Little Red School House, “we would have been completely lost,” Davis said. “I’ve always wanted a way to give back.”
Instead of bringing gifts, guests at Stephanie’s birthday party will have a chance to make a donation to the agency — which will have a fitting new name.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Little Red School House, which serves young children with developmental disabilities or delays, will celebrate its 50th anniversary noon-5 p.m. Saturday at Willis Tucker Park, 6705 Puget Park Drive, Snohomish. All families helped by the agency, staff and former staff are invited. Event includes a barbecue, live music and games. Information: www.littlered.org, or email Diane.Perry@littlered.org or call 425-353-5656.