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Our History


The Oaks was established in 1947. Originally known as the Hoff Heights Community Nursery School, it started when the Hoff Army Hospital Buildings (now the Santa Barbara City Golf Club course) were being used as emergency housing for WWII veterans, Santa Barbara College students and faculty. Twelve families, realizing the need for constructive play for their children, persuaded the County Housing Authority to let them use the former Officer’s Recreation Hall for a nursery school. Within a few months, the Adult Education Department of Santa Barbara College accepted the nursery school as the first parent-child workshop in Santa Barbara.

In 1956 the city removed the nursery school’s building to use the land for a golf course. The group then occupied a temporary building on the Riviera Campus of the University of California for two years. This period was one of intense fundraising and planning.

In the summer of 1957, Oaks families applied funds they had accumulated to purchase a small house on the present site. Plans were being made to remodel it for use as our school, but in February 1958 it burned to the ground.

The next seven months were a flurry of activity: in true co-op fashion, Oaks parents drew up architectural plans, served as contractor, and built the new school. The school opened in the fall of 1958. The Oaks was the first privately owned cooperative nursery school in Santa Barbara and one of the few in the state.

Over the years, generations of Santa Barbarans have graduated from The Oaks. Today we have about 60 families enrolled, including quite a few parents who were children at The Oaks themselves. The community of Oaksters (alums and current families) is wide and deep; Oaks friendships live on long past graduation. We are so grateful for all the wonderful families who make up this Oaks community.

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