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Since 1941, Mainspring is a best-in-class nonprofit preschool that eliminates the early childhood school readiness gap



We are one of only 8% of centers in the US accredited by NAEYC, the nation’s most rigorous early childhood accrediting body.

The curriculum:

  • Child-directed learning

  • Focus on instilling executive function skills

  • Low child-to-teacher ratios

  • Art, dance and music classes


  • Farm-to-table meals in partnership with the Sustainable Food Center

  • Trust-Based Relational Interventions (TBRI®)

  • Research-based social skills curriculum

  • Ample outdoor play and wellness learning


  • Parent education seminars on topics like nutrition, discipline and helping children succeed in school

  • Parent Advisory Council

  • Parenting Support group and counseling available

Why Austin's Children Need Us

By age 4, the average low-income child is 18 months behind their more affluent peers.
— Comprehensive Child Development Program (CCDP)
When children start kindergarten behind, they are likely to stay behind for the rest of their lives.
— RAND Labor and Population, 2007

Our History



1941: Chalmers Nursery School was founded as a Works Progress Administration project, sponsored by the Austin Association of University Women and the Austin Independent School District (AISD). The first “war nursery” located in a federal housing development, Chalmers served 25 children, ages 2-7.

1944: Chalmers’ name was changed to Austin Community Nursery Schools (ACNS) and was funded by Community Chest, now United Way, starting in 1944.

1948: Federal funds were ended and ACNS was chartered as a nonprofit agency.

1954: ACNS became one of the first 11 United Fund agencies in the Austin area and moved from Chalmers Court to Meadowbrook Homes Project with 44 children.

1968: The school moved to its present site, constructed by the Austin Housing Authority.

1973: The first contract with the Texas Department of Human Services (TDHS) went into effect.

1975: City funding allowed a second North location at St. Mark UMC, later relocated to Santa Maria Village Housing Development with 44 children.



1981: Funding increased from TDHS and began with Travis County allowing for an east location to be opened.

1984: ACNS East was located in the Springdale Gardens housing project, serving 40 children.

1989: The North, South and East schools were accredited by the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs.

1991: ACNS assumed the Bouldin Oaks Center from the Austin Housing Authority, serving 14 infants and toddlers until the loss of the lease caused children to be transferred to the South school.

1992: ACNS was chosen as one 11 Comprehensive Early Childhood Development Projects in Texas. Reduction in state funding caused the closure of the East school and children were transferred to the North school.



1994: North school moved to its own building in Walnut Creek Business Park, serving 100 children. The Housing Authority reclaimed possession of the Bouldin Oaks Center to accommodate residents’ request for a recreation center. All the children were transferred to the South school.

2000: The North school was closed and the South school became a model program to replicate in the future.

2004: A rebranding campaign resulted in a name change to Mainspring Schools.

2006: The school attained its top-level accreditation with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which is held by only 8% of child care centers in the U.S.

2016: The school opened a second building within the Meadowbrook Homes Project to accommodate two new classrooms as part of an Early Head Start partnership with Child Inc.