Private school looks to open in Tribeca next year

By Ronda Kaysen

Downtown, a neighborhood in short supply of elementary schools, might get a new school in 2007.

A group of parents and educators plans to build a Waldorf school in Tribeca—the first of its kind in Lower Manhattan. The new school would open as a mixed-aged kindergarten for three to six year olds and eventually grow into a K-5 school with 150 students.

“There is a need for a lot more schools,” said Chris Huson, chairperson of the Manhattan Waldorf Initiative. “We’re 150 kids when we’re fully set up, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the growth of the neighborhood.”

The Waldorf school would be the second secular private school in Lower Manhattan. Claremont Prep, a K-12, opened last fall. The school does not have a site yet, although Huson said it will be located below Canal St.

Although the new school will be the second Waldorf in Manhattan—the other one is Rudolf Steiner on the Upper East Side—it will be independently run. “The Downtown school is not going to be a copy of the Uptown school,” said Timothy Hoffmann, a teacher at Steiner. “It’s going to be determined by the teachers and board members Downtown.”

Huson, whose daughter attends Steiner, describes Waldorf schools as community-based schools that are created and run by faculty and parents. As part of the planning process for the new school, Huson is enlisting Downtown parents now.

Waldorf schools teach students based on a philosophy that children learn with all five of their senses and need a nurturing environment to grow. There are 800 Waldorf schools globally, but all are run independently from one another.

The new school’s tuition would be comparable with other New York City private schools—somewhere between $15,000 and $25,000 a year—Huson said.

“I’d like to give parents in the Downtown community the opportunity to have something that I didn’t have: the opportunity to send their kids to a Waldorf school in their own neighborhood,” Justine Cuccia told Community Board 1 members at a March 28 Youth Committee meeting. Cuccia, a Battery Park City resident, has been shepherding her 13-year-old daughter to Steiner on the Upper East Side since she was seven years old. She plans to send her four-year-old daughter to P.S. 150 in Tribeca for kindergarten next year, but said the neighborhood could use a Waldorf school.

“We need the city to build the public schools that they promised,” she said, referring to the Beekman School and a new annex for P.S. 234 that the mayor recently threatened to cut from the city’s budget. “And we need more options, too.”

On April 25, Hoffmann will host a forum explaining the Waldorf education philosophy at 7 p.m. for parents on the 25th floor of 7 World Trade Center.


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