Private school proposed for Wall St.

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Starting in the fall of 2005, backpacks could join briefcases on Wall St. as a new private school opens its doors across from the New York Stock Exchange.

Private funds totaling $8 million have already been secured to open Claremont Academy, the planned school for kindergarten through eighth grade, according to Michael Koffler, president of Metropolitan Preschools, Inc., which owns Claremont Children’s School on Amsterdam Ave.

Koffler said that parents at the seven nursery schools he operates in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens helped him realize the need for more elementary and middle school options.

“There’s this anxiety level that goes through the roof” as the children reach four years old, Koffler said at last week’s meeting of the youth and education committee of Community Board 1.

Koffler said he had considered Lower Manhattan as a location for his new school even before Sept. 11, 2001 After the terror attacks, he felt that continuing with his plans would help revitalize the area.

The school’s tentative location, the L-shaped building at 23 Wall St. and 15 Broad St., formerly housed JP Morgan. Metropolitan Preschools has not yet signed a lease on the 130,000 sq ft. of space that it would like to occupy in the building, Koffler said. Twenty-three Wall St. is a city landmark, but the tower at 15 Broad St. is not.

The buildings are on the block that was to be the new home of the New York Stock Exchange. The plan, which included demolishing all of the buildings on the block except for 23 Wall, fell through after the Sept. 11 attack.

Claremont Academy will accommodate 1,000 students in grades K through eight, and it will open with all grades in place, Koffler said. He predicted it would take about three years for the school to reach its maximum capacity. Tuition will be about $22,000 per year, Koffler said.

Currently, there are no private schools accredited with the New York State Association of Independence Schools located south of Canal St. Claremont Academy will be run as a for-profit institution and thus will not be accredited as an independent school, Koffler said, but it will have to comply with state and city regulations.

Millennium High School, a new public school, is scheduled to move to 75 Broad St. this fall. In addition, a private school is planned to open in September 2004 with 35 sixth graders, and will grow year by year through the twelfth grade. Founders of the Downtown School were looking at a space at 500 Greenwich St. for the school, which would put it half a block north of Canal St.

While community board members welcomed the idea of a new school in Lower Manhattan, some had concerns about the academy’s proposed location.

“You have 1,000 kids outside the stock exchange—is that the wisest place to be?” asked Joel Kopel, a member of the youth and education committee.

“I don’t think we’re risking the safety and life of the children,” Koffler replied. “I think we’re bringing them into the heart” of government and commerce.

Despite the barricades in the area and the armed guards, buses will be able to stop directly in front of the school after approaching it from Nassau St., Koffler said.

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