“I heard somewhere that every time you smile it improves your sense of well-being, and I thought, they make me smile a hundred times a day.”
These are the words of Ilo Shubert, several days before she hands out certificates of graduation to her 40 plus preschoolers for the final time.
Shubert has run Ilo’s Preschool for over 28 years now and believes it’s time to pack it in, but not before she’s certain after it’s been sold and the school will continue to operate as it has for so long.
Shubert is asking the city for a letter of assurance that whoever buys her business can continue to run the preschool in the same room and pay rent at a reasonable cost.
Located in the Lodge Room, downstairs in the Miners Hall, her children have all the space they could need for anything a growing, learning kid needs.
“It has big high ceilings, lots of natural light, lots of space so the kids have room to move,” she said.
Shubert has stations set up all over the room for various activites including painting, reading and more.
“We run a flexible but consistent schedule every day. They learn what’s coming next and that’s their preparation for Kindergarten; following a schedule and learning to work in a group.”
From humble beginnings when the school was supposed to host one group twice a week Ilo’s has grown to have 75 kids at times. Over the years, Shubert has cut back but still tends to cover several groups, four days a week, mornings and evenings.
The Miners’ Hall is owned by the city and Shubert contracts with them to run the preschool.
“Different people over the years have thought the room should be used for different things. I want to make sure that space is available for the preschoolers.”
Shubert believes there is no other place quite like the Lodge Room.
“Some are concerned about having to cross the road [to get to the Miners’ Hall] but I say it’s just another opportunity for learning the rules involved with crossing.
“I find it hard to believe — of course I’m biased — that anything else is more important.”
Shubert said that various councils over the years have agreed that it is in the city’s best interest to keep this preschool around. Especially with the recent closure of the high school, parents want to keep their kids in their community.
“I have 40 families that want preschool in September and they’re all so panicked not knowing what they’re going to do.”
As it stands now, there is interest from people who want to continue on with Shubert’s work, but at the same time, she said she’s seen a drop in interest because of the uncertainty.
“It’s actually bittersweet this week. I’m feeling it’s time for someone younger with a little more energy to take over but I’m going to miss them so much. I have kids of kids now. Those who came before are now bringing their little ones and that’s so cool.”
During last week’s council meeting, several concerned citizens, parents, and friends of Shubert came out to voice their support.
“Going to Ilo’s, has provided my kids with the opportunity to play, to learn, to meet other children and discover what school is,” said one mother, Janet Brooks.
“It’s such an amazing and positive way to introduce school and learning and things outside of the home, to kids.”
Next to address council, Jill Knight, shared her fond memories of Ilo’s.
“I have five children and they’ve all gone through Ilo’s program. Just the other day my eighteen year old quoted ‘You get what you get and you don’t get upset.’ I’m pretty sure every child in Rossland knows that line. Ilo has been an iconic figure in this community. Everyone always says it takes a community to raise a child and Ilo gives the opportunity to create that community.”
Ilo Shubert retired last Thursday after many fun-filled years, educating and inspiring the youth of Rossland.