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PS1 - 50 Years in the Making


A Dream in the Making

Joel Pelcyger and Eleanor Coben collaborated with Mel Suhd to develop a non-graded, Pluralistic School in Santa Monica, CA joining a nation-wide movement to change the way children were schooled in America.  PS #1 was designed as a non-graded, independent elementary school for children ages 5 to 11.  It was to be inter-racial, inter-cultural, and designed to respond to the needs of its students, helping them to live together in their community through both directed and self-initiated learning.


PS #1 Opens on Princeton Street

From September to December PS #1 opened at a former school building on Princeton Street in Santa Monica, with 12 students and six staff. 28 had enrolled by June of 1972.  The school had to move several times, and included classrooms in the Trinity Baptist Church in Santa Monica, a Montessori Building, as well as a shell of a building on a large lot overlooking the I-10 freeway.


PS #1 Finds a Permanent Home at 1447 Euclid Street

In June of 1975 the Santa Monica Parents Co-Op Nursery School generously donated the property to PS #1 and the school moved that summer to its first owned property.  1447 Euclid was now home to a non-graded primary school for students from Kindergarten through the fourth grade. Circle Time was born on the floor of the “Big Room” and the little house with the boat in the back yard churned with industry.


First Graduation and “Kids Today”

The first graduation was held in the front yard of 1447 in 1998 and in 1979 “Kids Today,” a student edited newsletter, became the precursor to today’s PeriScope magazine. By 1980 there were 31 students and the school began to grow and flourish.


1447 Euclid Renovation

The Euclid building underwent a major renovation to allow PS #1 to enroll more students and develop a K-6 curriculum. The school grew to four classes and 49 students. Barbara Strauss began a 17-year tenure as poetry teacher and produced the first of 17 PS #1 Poetry Books; children became poets and wrote poems weekly. New and innovative teaching and learning methods about Multiple Intelligence theories supported and reinforced PS #1 philosophy and pedagogy.


Exciting Activities

The first Advisory Board comprised of faculty, parents, and community members was formed, every classroom was equipped with computers, and Outdoor Education continued as an integral part of the curriculum, with annual all-school camping trips to Leo Carrillo and Sycamore Canyon State beaches. 


Pilot Program with Tripod & The Annex

The Tripod Program for the Hearing Impaired partnered with the school for three years, enrolling hearing impaired students as well as trained ASL teachers.  PS #1 students learned sign language and used it daily in class. In addition, this time marked the beginning of having two team teachers in a classroom.  Architects Koning Eisenberg remodeled the 1448 Euclid property.  The Annex was created to accommodate the new design for learning.


PS #1 Holds a Vision Conference 

The PS #1 community held a Vision Conference to plan its future.  A strategic plan for intentional growth was developed. The first Parents Guild was launched this year, and the student body now stood at 84 students, 7 teachers and 5 classrooms.  PS #1 continued its dedication to educational pluralism, diversity among students, small classes, and a nurturing community environment. The community auditorium at the Santa Monica Public Library hosted a huge production of the original Johnny Appleseed musical where each student had at least one speaking line.


The Chowder Call Restaurant purchased

Killifer Flammang Architects designed the remodel of the Chowder Call restaurant into a multi-purpose room, which was used as classroom, performance and meeting space to foster interaction and allow for a variety of smaller spaces to meet different needs. The whole school took part in the planning and preparation, discussing how PS1 wanted students to live in and move through the spaces. The play yards on campus doubled in size.


A Year of Firsts

PS1 became accredited by CAIS; The Parents Guild hosted a Fathers’ Project and Staff Appreciation Day; and the PeriScope Newsletter and first Yearbook were published.  PS1 camped at Joshua Tree while studying the desert. A traditional board of trustees with added fiduciary responsibility was formed in 1993 after years of an advisory board comprised of faculty, parents and community members. 


Student Activism in Motion, Taco Planet, and Raising Chickens

PS1 students attended a meeting of Santa Monica City Council, presenting a petition from children in Santa Monica schools requesting the city be designated gun-free. After much research and many proposals, students created their own restaurant “Taco Planet.”  Every student had a role!  Wade Killifer helped children design and build a chicken coop.  Chickens were raised from eggs as students applied their learning, writing, negotiation, and group skills to complete experiential projects and take charge of their own learning becoming curious and self- directed learners.


Building Bridges 

PS1 opened a new building at 1448 Euclid which housed a central office and library.  The classroom building connected to it by a bridge over the alley.  Six new classrooms were now linked to 1448 Euclid by a bridge over an alley.  It was the second, and only other, bridge over an alley in Santa Monica.


The Field of Dreams – A Decade of Joy, Growth and Discovery

Construction of The Field of Dreams started in 2002, and opened to students in the Spring of 2003 at 1443 12th Street.  This addition quadrupled the outdoor and play space for children. It is also the home to the oldest Oak Tree in Santa Monica, and has served as a gathering space for decades of tradition.


Storypath to Teach the Presidential Election

Story Path is a curriculum designed to teach through experience.  In this National Presidential Election year, the Olders Cluster created a presidential campaign, studied the evolution of American politics, and ran a fictitious presidential race from primary to election, including debates and ultimate voting before savvy poll workers. Student roles included candidates, campaign managers, art directors, media specialists, treasurers and the full range of support staff.


Campus Expansion Announced

Following the 2010 purchase of The Buffalo Building on Broadway, Head of School Joel Pelcyger, announced plans for a major campus expansion for all in the PS1 community.  PS1 celebrated its 40th anniversary in grand style, and was recognized officially as PS1 Pluralistic School.  The makerspace (Studio) was soon realized; the new building on Broadway was dedicated in 2013; and the campus expansion was completed. The little school which was often referred to as the “best kept secret” now had a very public face on the corner of Euclid and Broadway.


PS1 Partnerships Continue to Grow

PS1’s role as a community partner continued to expand. The Santa Monica Youth Orchestra program established its office on campus this year.  Students had access to instrumental instruction from trained professionals.  SMYO joined the ever-expanding list of our valued community partners, including:  Step Up on Second, Heal the Bay, The People Concern (formerly OPCC), and the Santa Monica Public Library.  We are grateful to all for these rich relationships.


Sustainable Quality Awards Tradition Continues

PS1 was honored to have received the SQA Grand Prize for combined excellence in Sustainable Economic Development, Social Responsibility, and Stewardship of the Natural Environment.  This accomplishment is added to a proud list of other awards including: SQA Grand Prize, 2011; Excellence in Social Responsibility, 2009; Excellence Award in Stewardship of the Built Environment, 1999.  Receiving the top prize among all businesses in Santa Monica was a huge achievement. 



PS1 Launches the “DLCP”

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, PS1 had to “turn on a dime” to launch its first-ever Distance Learning Community Program.  This served as the basis for instruction as the school evolved to a hybrid model for the year to come.


Students Return to Campus – the PS1 of Today

PS1 Reopens for on-campus instruction for the first time in almost a year.  

Enrollment has grown to 217 students in 9 classrooms within 4 clusters of multi-age students. It is an urban 1.2-acre campus in the heart of Santa Monica. There are 180 families, 18 lead teachers and 5 specialists comprising Art, Music, P.E., Library and Studio. In addition, before and after school programs are available.  In its ongoing commitment to diversity, 26% of the student body received $1.4 million in Financial Aid.  The racial diversity among students and faculty is 50% of faculty and 48% of students are people of color.  Students come from 28 zip codes and 85 different preschools/feeder schools.