Two new preschools for B.P.C.

By KAITLYN MEADE | With a shortage of public preschool seats in the area, two new, private preschools are opening up in Battery Park City this fall on South End Ave.

A new Montessori school will open in September on the ground floor of the Regatta Building at 21 South End Ave., by the Battery Park City Esplanade. A competing school, from the Preschool of America chain, will also open this fall across the street at 2 South End Ave. Both spaces were previously occupied by the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy.

Both preschool sites were suggested by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Downtown school advocates as possible public school locations to relieve elementary school overcrowding, but at a May 10 meeting to discuss the kindergarten waiting lists, Dept. of Education officials gave no indication they ever pursued either lead.

The need for preschool seats in the area is also apparent as P.S. 276 lost half of their pre-K program for fall, and Peck Slip School opened two half-day classes in an attempt to make-up the difference. However, Peck Slip’s principal Maggie Sienna has said that the solution is only possible for one year as the school grows out in the Tweed Courthouse. P.S. 234 lost its Pre-K program several years ago for the same reason.

As a result, parents who can afford it have looked for private options.

The Battery Park Montessori preschool is the first of a series planned by school development expert and Battery Park City parent Jennifer Jones, who, on her “Green Ivy” schools webpage, cites the “acute shortage of public and private schools, an international demographic, a baby boom, growing affluence and corporate expansion through the rebuilding of the World Trade Center,” as motivating forces behind her idea for community-based private schools in Lower Manhattan.

“A few years ago, I was the mother of a 1-year-old boy, a mother for the first time, pushing a stroller through Battery Park City and thinking about where my son would go to school. I didn’t see many options in Battery Park City, and I knew that some of my choices would require me to commute across the highway, essentially splitting our lives into halves,” Jones said in an email to Downtown Express.

Her plan revolves around three components: small class sizes, a dedicated staff, and a community-based curriculum that will connect school life with the outside world.

Students are 2 – 5 years old and tuition will range from $9,000 for two days per week to $27,000 for full day programs (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.) for older children. The Battery Park City location has filled its morning sessions, and has almost filled the afternoon and full day programs, according to spokesperson Elizabeth Fosnight. She said these slots are filling up fast as new families move into the neighborhood.

A pre-K through eighth grade site, called the Pine Street School, is also planned to open in the Financial District the following year.

Preschool of America, formerly called Red Apple Child Development Center, will open in the Cove Club building at 2 South End Ave. sometime in the fall. The opening date has been delayed due to construction issues that they inherited when they took over the space, said Preschool of America spokesperson Jill Howard, who oversees all of the sites.

Howard said they plan to open as many as 15 classrooms.

The company already has 16 locations throughout the city, including two in Lower Manhattan on Eldridge and Market Sts. Part daycare and part preschool, the B.P.C. location will provide care for children from three months to six years old.

“There was definitely a need in that area,” said Howard. “There are preschools but not many places that serve infants.” She also said that it was a program geared toward working parents. Year-round options run Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with late pick-up available until 6:30 p.m.

Admission to Preschool of America is based on a rolling system, but enrollment will not begin until they can start showing the building, hopefully in late summer. The fees have not yet been determined.

One of the programs that Preschool of America is known for is their Chinese language program, which is implemented at many of their schools for the older kids, either as weekly classes or, in some cases, a half-day immersion program. “I want to get a sense from parents first,” before starting an immersion program, said Howard.

However, she believes there will be a demand in the area, despite the opening of the Montessori school across the way. “It’s a completely different model than our model,” she said. “But I know there’s a lot of interest based on parents calling me saying they don’t have a lot of options.”