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Day school to close after 42 years

June 06, 2006|By Michael Miller

Last month, Jean Park did something she had never done before as owner of Park Private Day School: she invited the school's alumni back for an open house on campus. Among the former students who answered the call were teachers and master's degree candidates, though a few sent their parents in their place ? they were busy oversees, attending college in Ireland or going on archeological digs.

"I had such a warm feeling inside," Park said. "It feels so good seeing what they've become, and knowing that you've been a part of it."

When Park bought her first private school 42 years ago, she never envisioned that she would say those words ? at least, not in the 21st century. This month, Park Private shuts its doors for the last time on June 16.

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Park, who co-owns the campus with her husband, Jack, has overseen it for four decades as it grew from a tiny kindergarten to a full elementary and middle school. This spring, the Parks finally opted to bring down the curtain on a longtime Costa Mesa institution.

"We got into it and decided we were doing a good thing, and just kept building," Park said.

Park Private Day School, in a quiet neighborhood on the east side of Costa Mesa, is a non-sectarian school that serves boys and girls in kindergarten through the eighth grade. All students are required to wear uniforms. During the summer, the school features a non-academic day camp that features both arts activities and sports.

For a campus that started as an extension of a preschool, it's quite a final product.

In 1964, the Parks joined several partners in buying Playmates Preschool, a Costa Mesa site where Jean Park worked part-time. As enrollment increased, the Parks purchased an additional site in 1966 for kindergarten. That site, on Church Street, housed Park Private Day School until it moved in the 1970s to its current location on Monte Vista Avenue.

Suzanne Lamond, the principal of Park Private for 24 years, said the school typically has about 100 students at a time. Although families pay tuition to send their children there, Lamond noted that the student body covers all races and income groups.

"We have single parents who struggle every month to make tuition, and we have some families with three or four kids for whom it's a drop in the bucket," she said.

In March, the school sent a notice out to parents that it would not be reopening for the fall. Dale Mireles, the office manager, said that one of the difficulties for outgoing students would be acclimating to the class sizes of public schools.

"We have a class of four," she said. "We have a class of five. Our biggest class is 14.

"When you're in kindergarten, it looks huge. Then, when you come back after high school, it looks tiny."

On June 15, the final day of instruction at Park Private, the school plans to hold a catered dinner outside for its currently-enrolled families. That intimate involvement, Park said, is part of what helps to keep the school running.

"I owe so much to so many people," she said.dpt.06-park-cw-CPhotoInfoK31RM99220060606j0ex7encCHRIS WAGNER / DAILY PILOT(LA)Co-founder Jean Park at Park Private School in Costa Mesa. The school is closing after 42 years in the community.

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