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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The School Year Ahead: Laid-off Spokane teacher puts future in her own hands in opening preschool

After being laid off from her job last spring as a Wilson Elementary School second-grade teacher at the Spokane Public Schools, Krista Hastings is ready to open a preschool at the old 1930s-era school house in Glenrose. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

All the signs pointed Krista Hastings toward this idyllic spot on the Glenrose Prairie.

The most poignant was the nameplate on the door of her second-grade classroom at Wilson Elementary School on the South Hill. The day after Hastings received her layoff notification notice from Spokane Public Schools, it fell off the door.

“Well, I guess that was a sign,” Hastings said with a laugh.

Four months later, Hastings is as busy as a bee – fittingly, as she’s about to open the Little Hive School, a preschool that will be housed in a former schoolhouse that was built in the 1930s.

She already has seven students enrolled at the Little Hive, where Hastings promises to “focus on the idea of preparing them for kindergarten and school, but more so that we’re shaping little humans.”

“Our three main values are kindness, curiosity and independence, and also empathy for others,” said Hastings, who has tried to emulate those values since she graduated from Lewis and Clark High School and Western Washington University.

After working in other fields for a few years, Hastings thought she’d found the perfect job last fall at Wilson, teaching second-graders in a job-share situation and living in the Wilson neighborhood with her husband and two daughters.

“I loved my job at Wilson,” Hastings said.

Then came the budget crisis at Spokane Public Schools, which sent out layoff notifications to more than 300 employees, including 183 teachers and certificated staff.

Nearly all would eventually be rehired or moved to other positions, but Hastings was pessimistic, especially because, as a part-timer, Hastings had accrued only 3 ½ months of seniority to that point.

“I’d been reassured by other teachers, but I was so low in seniority,” Hastings said.

Meanwhile, her parents, Pat and Sue Kautzman, had their eyes on the old schoolhouse at the corner of 37th Avenue and Fancher Road, where it overlooks a vast expanse of farmland.

The Kautzmans had done this before. In 2009 they bought a building on South Perry and persuaded Hastings to transform it into South Perry Pizza, which they sold four years later. At the same time, Hastings raised a family and simultaneously earned her teaching certificate along with a master’s degree at Eastern Washington. Then she got the job at Wilson.

In true “‘Krista style,’ she does not sit back and wait for an opportunity, she makes one happen,” her mother said.

After failing to strike a deal on the property last winter, the Kautzmans purchased the old schoolhouse in mid-April – only days after Krista got the layoff notice.

Hastings didn’t look back. Four months later she was offered her old job at Wilson, but by then she already had four students enrolled at Little Hive.

“I think she was given an opportunity that fell into her lap,” said Camille Miller, who was Hastings’ teacher-mentor at Wilson. “She’s working in a field she obviously loves – I’m so excited for her and what she will bring to the kids.”

The old schoolhouse is filled with history. A century ago, farms and orchards filled the Glenrose and Moran prairies.

In another example of Spokane having fewer degrees of separation than most locales, Miller recalls tales of the old school from her grandparents.

Miller’s great-grandparents donated land for the school, which was built in 1936 and served first through eighth grades.

It’s unclear when the building ceased operation as a school, but it’s been repurposed several times, most recently as a fitness center.

The building is a blend of old and new, a juxtaposition of weathered wood floors in the closets and bright colors that will greet students when they arrive in early September.

That’s when learning will once again fill the old schoolhouse. Hastings hopes to create an atmosphere of “empathy for others, of waiting our turn, of curiosity.”

“They will do independent work on a project by themselves, or learn to zip a coat by themselves,” Hastings said. “I want them to never stop asking questions, to have that attitude of lifetime learning, of self-driven exploration.”