Our Story

The Haight Ashbury Community Nursery School was founded in 1974 by a group of parents who were looking to establish a child-centered, parent-run school for their young children. While other community nursery schools existed in San Francisco at the time, none were in the Haight/Cole Valley neighborhoods.

With the help of Diane Feinstein (then City Supervisor) these active parents were able to secure Grattan Playground as the location for the new school. They obtained the required licensing materials and a lease for the site through the City's Recreation and Parks Department. Naomi White, a professional in early childhood education, was hired as our first director and school officially began on March 4, 1974.

Naomi worked as director for 12 years. During that time, she established the nuts and bolts of our routine and created its atmosphere-one in which every child is validated, respected, and loved. Cocoa Drake, our current director, took over for Naomi in 1986. Cocoa was a parent member in the early 1980s, and is also an early childhood education professional. Cocoa is the lifeblood of HACNS, and it is under her supervision that our children continue to grow and thrive.

Our Philosophy

Children are innately curious. They want to touch, smell, taste, see, and listen to everything. They want to talk, they want to imitate, they want to explore. And the more they learn, the more they want to learn. Because young children are so open to environmental influences, it is important to encourage this exploration so that they become active, rather than passive, learners.

At Haight Ashbury Community Nursery School, children are free to choose from a variety of creative projects indoors, or they may play outdoors-riding, climbing, digging, picking, splashing, and swinging. We believe that child-directed play, supported by a variety of interesting materials and obliging teachers, best fulfills the preschool-age child's developmental requirements-mental, emotional, physical, and social.

We are also committed to diversity, which encourages learning. From snacks to songs, projects to stories, throughout the day our children learn about their world from member families with wildly different cultural backgrounds-and common goals.

reading with Cocoa
My hope is that, together with parents, I can help create a warm, happy, and exciting community-a place where children feel good about themselves and about each other, and a place where, above all things, the desire to learn and the spirit of childhood is truly respected. We, in our school community, can foster a sense of excitement and love of learning.
— Cocoa Drake, Director