Preschools grow with their young charges


By Jennifer Milne

Choosing the right preschool can be a daunting task for some new parents, and with so many choices in Lower Manhattan. Because more families are moving Downtown, spaces in the area’s preschools are filling up quicker than ever before. Nearly all of the preschools we spoke to of this article said their programs – and waiting lists – filled up earlier this year than last year.

Susan Duncan, the assistant director of the Church Street School of Music and Art, said she’s seen an enormous population growth Downtown. “Many more people are living down here now,” she said. “There’s been a big growth.”

According to the Downtown Alliance, 2006 saw an influx of about 3,000 people, bringing Downtown’s population to 40,000. In addition, last year almost 1,500 new units were added to the housing market, an increase that hasn’t been seen since 1998. The Alliance’s area extends south of Chambers St. in Lower Manhattan.

Kate Delacorte, co-director of the Downtown Little School, said her school filled up faster this year than ever before. “It used to be hard to fill up fours [the 4-year-old group] because of public pre-kindergarten,” she said. “This year, there seems to be an endless number of 4-year-olds, due to the population boom.”

Most preschools want both parents and children to come and tour the schools, ask questions and take the time to decide if a certain school is right for them. The Montessori method, which many preschools feature, emphasizes self-directed learning and classrooms often feature interactive aspects like plants or small pets.

Many schools also offer payment plans or financial aid. Here’s a look at some of the schools Downtown:

Battery Park Day Nursery

215 South End Ave.



The only preschool in Battery Park City, Battery Park Day Nursery offers about 150 children, ages 1 to 5, both full- and part-time programs. Battery Park Day began in 1986 with Joy McCormack, an educator from the Upper East Side, and 21 years later it’s still going strong.

Denise Cordivano, co-director of Battery Park Day, said about 85 percent of the preschool’s students are residents of B.P.C., with 10 percent coming from the general Downtown area, and the rest from other parts of Manhattan, Staten Island and New Jersey. The school is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Cordivano said one aspect of the program kids are particularly excited about are specialty teachers that come in.

“Every month we have a cultural dance teacher who comes in and a yoga teacher,” she said. “They [the children] love it! She does about 15 minutes of yoga with the 1- to 2-year-olds and a half hour with the 3s, 4s, and 5s.”

The school has 30 full-time teachers and five classrooms. Children are divided into classrooms by age group, with three teachers to 10, 15 or 20 students, depending on age. Cost for a child under 3 to go full-time is $1,540 a month and part-time for five half-days is $1,055 a month. For a child over three, full-time is $1,450 a month and part-time for five half-days is $970 a month.

Buckle My Shoe Learning Center

40 Worth St.



Buckle My Shoe, which opened in 1981, is a Reggio-Emilia inspired preschool. The Reggio-Emilia approach encourages children to grow through a project-oriented curriculum, and draws support and ideas for the curriculum from parents. Particular importance is placed on the role of the classroom environment in learning.

Last year, the Tribeca campus of Buckle My Shoe had 100 children, aged 3 months to 6 years, and it expects to have the same enrollment numbers this year, according to educational director Kathleen Flynn. Flynn said the preschool has 30 full-time teachers, and monthly tuition ranges from $795 to $2,000, depending on the program the child enters. Linda Ensko, the director of both the Tribeca and Greenwich Village campuses, is also the school’s founder.

Flynn said about half of the Tribeca campus’s children are residents of the neighborhood, but many parents who work in the area also bring their children. The school also recently added an art studio, Flynn said, and the Tribeca campus is the only location to offer infant and toddler programs for children aged 3 months to 2 years.

Church Street School for Music and Art

74 Warren St.



Founded in 1990, the Church Street School for Music and Art offers specialized music and art classes to both preschoolers and the Downtown community. The director of the program is Lisa Ecklund-Flores and the curriculum offers many classes tailored to the student’s developmental level: For example, there’s music and movement for the 3- to 4-year-olds, and visual art classes for children 16 to 36 months and 3 to 4 years.

“We’re not just a preschool,” said Duncan, the school’s assistant director. “We’re not just a music school or just an art school, either. We’re a not-for-profit, community-based school that tries to keep its prices down so it’s affordable for the community.”

The early childhood program has about 100 kids divided into classes of 12. Children can enter and leave the program at any time, and classes are pro-rated accordingly, Duncan said. Most of the students at Church Street are from Battery Park City, Tribeca and Soho, but children do attend from as far as Brooklyn and the Bronx if their parents work in the area.

What’s new at Church Street is the arts academy, an after-school program where children can come in three days a week and sing in the chorus, play recorder, paint, sculpt and participate in dramatic improvisation. The school was recently given a $400,000 grant by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. for expansion, and Duncan said the school will be adding new music rooms and art studios soon.

“It’s really about allowing the children the chance to find their own voices,” Duncan said. “Early childhood education is very much about them exploring. In children’s art, they need to have the opportunity to explore and to make it their own. The natural process in these kids is that they will have desire that will make them want to draw.”

Annual tuition ranges from $4,320 for a part-time, two-mornings-a-week program, to $6,900 for a three-afternoons-a-week program. Classes are pro-rated based on when the child joins the program.

Downtown Little School

15 Dutch St.



Downtown Little School, founded in 1999, is a small preschool for children ages 2 to 5 that’s located in the heart of the Financial District. Enrollment was 78 children last year, and co-directors Delacorte and Meredith Gary expect the program to reach 86 children this year. Delacorte said the Downtown Little School didn’t just fill up early this year, it filled up “right away.”

“Next year, we’re having two 4-year-old classes,” Delacorte said. “We’ve always had two groups, but before we had a mixed age group of 4- and 5-year-olds. We’ve expanded because there are so many 4-year-olds.”

The school has a staff of 10 full-time teachers, and Delacorte said most of the children in the program come from walking distance, including Battery Park City, Tribeca, the Wall Street area and Southbridge Towers. Annual tuition is just under $9,000 for a half-day afternoon program, and $14,000 for a full-day program.

Educational Alliance Preschool

197 East Broadway



The Educational Alliance Preschool, founded in 1979, is a Jewish preschool that serves a diverse community, according to director Leslie Pilder. It’s part of the Educational Alliance, a Jewish community organization that’s been in Lower Manhattan since 1889. Preschoolers are part of either “Edgies Lions,” which uses Jewish tradition to teach children about the diversity of the Lower East Side or “Torah Tots,” a curriculum focused on Judaism which includes daily prayer and Jewish ethical teachings.

Pilder said the Alliance’s preschool program did fill up earlier than last year, and she expects about 50 children, down from 60 last year due to combining classrooms. There are still a few spots left in the Torah Tots program, Pilder said.

The preschool has six full-time teachers and has at least two teachers in each classroom, in addition to “enrichment” teachers, which include dance, yoga and music instructors. Most of the children that attend the preschool live locally, and the Alliance plans to put on several shows for the community in the future, to showcase their preschool talents.

“The preschool is sponsoring several Sunday events for families with young children, including musical events,” Pilder said. “We’re very excited about that – it’s an opportunity for people who aren’t part of the preschool community to have something to do on a Sunday morning or afternoon.”

Annual tuition for the Educational Alliance preschool ranges from $3.960 for two half-days to $9,720 for five full-days. In addition to the Downtown location, there is also an East Village location at 344 E. 14th St.

Fed Kids

Early Childhood Center

26 Federal Plaza, Room 110



Fed Kids is one of three Imagine Early Learning Centers located in Manhattan. It gives preference to parents who work in the federal buildings Downtown. The center is run by director Bessie Liang, and assistant director Raschelle Franco said Fed Kids filled up very early this year. “Some people have been on the wait list for a year,” she said.

Last year Fed Kids had 84 children in its program, and this year Franco expects about the same. The center, which has been Downtown for more than a decade, has 20 full-time teachers, including a movement and music teacher. One of the center’s permanent teachers also teaches a Spanish class for 2-year-olds.

“They love her,” Franco said. “They sit around and ask questions, and she reads them stories in Spanish.”

Tuition is much less expensive than other Downtown programs: $1,123 for infants and toddlers up to age 3 of parents who work in the federal buildings. For preschool children ages 3 to 5, tuition is $810 for children of federal building employees. For parents who do not work in the federal buildings, infants and toddlers up to age 3 are $1,406 and preschool-aged children are $1,244.

Jewish Community Project Early Childhood Center

146 Duane St.



The Jewish Community Project preschool is currently in its third year, and has recently double its capacity in a new Tribeca locataion,146 Duane St. Director Sharon Shorofsky Mack said the preschool enrolled 35 children aged 22 months through pre-kindergarten, and she has 75 children in the program this year, which she said filled up so quickly this year due to “word of mouth.”

.J.C.P. has 13 full-time teachers and serves children from Battery Park City up to the West Village, said Shorofsky Mack. Annual tuition ranges from $3,500 to $15,000 and the school has added three new classes for the upcoming school year.

“We’ve added the classes to accommodate more age groups and more children in each age group,” Shorofsky Mack said. “We’ve also expanded the parent center and enrichment classes, as well as the morning classes for children who are too young for preschool.”

Montessori Schoolof Manhattan

Tribeca Campus,

53-55 Beach St. 212-334-0400

Wall Street Campus, 2 Gold St.



The Montessori School of Manhattan’s Tribeca campus opened in 2003 and the school expects to open a new campus this fall at 2 Gold St. ( see article, page 23) The Tribeca campus has nine classrooms serving about 250 children ages 2 to 6. Director Bridie Gauthier said 87 percent of the first school’s population comes from Tribeca, with most of the remainder from other Downtown neighborhoods.

Annual tuition ranges from $8,950 for toddlers two days a week to $19,950 for five full days a week.

The Park Preschool

275 Greenwich St.



The Park Preschool, founded in 1989, is closed for summer vacation until Sept. 4, and parents can begin scheduling tours Sept. 5 by calling the school. Annual tuition ranges from $5,350 for a half-day, two days a week to $15,700 for an extended day, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., five days a week.

Tribeca Community School

22 Ericsson Pl.



Tribeca Community School, a preschool program for children ages 2 to 5, is going into its second year this year. The program more than doubled its enrollment since the first year, increasing from 20 to 50 students, said Ayala Marcktell, the school’s founder and administrative director. She stressed that Tribeca Community, which follows the Reggio Emilio philosophy, is not the typical preschool.

“We’re not a traditional preschool,” she said. “Most schools implement [the Reggio Emilio philosophy], but we follow it. The set up is different – how the teachers are trained and how they work with the students.”

She said the physical layout of a Reggio school — each classroom centered around a common learning area – is an important feature of the philosophy.

Annual tuition for the program ranges from $8,500 to $15,000, and Marcktell said most of the children in the program come from Tribeca, Battery Park City and the West Village.

The school will have eight teachers this year, and has expanded its space from one classroom to three.

The Washington Market School

55 Hudson St. 212-233-2176

134 Duane St. 212-406-7271


The Washington Market School has two campuses in Tribeca, and has come a long way since it started in founder Ronnie Moskowitz’s apartment in 1976. The school was made a non-profit in 1981, and follows the guidelines of the Independent Schools Association of Greater New York. Washington Market does not have a waiting list like many other preschools, and does not interview the child – Moskowitz said the school does not fill up, so no one is denied admission.

The combined enrollment of both Tribeca sites is 275, with 38 full-time teachers. Washington Market follows the Montessori school philosophy. Moskowitz said that the majority of students come from Tribeca, Battery Park City, Soho and the Seaport.

“We try to discourage students from coming outside the area unless they’ve decided the school is really for them,” she said.

Annual tuition ranges from $5,800 for a part-time program to $21,000 for a full-time program, where students stay 8:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. As for what’s new, Moskowitz said air conditioning has recently been installed in both the Hudson St. and Duane St. locations.

“We’ve built a chess room and a science room,” Moskowitz said. “We have drama and music programs at both sites. We’ve made it a better space for everyone.”