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BY KAITLYN MEADE | Two private preschools are expanding in Lower Manhattan, bringing more pre-K seats to Downtown parents. This fall, The Learning Experience will open a new level of its first Manhattan preschool in Battery Park City, which is part of its recovery effort from Superstorm Sandy. Meanwhile, the Educational Alliance’s preschool will be growing into a new community center on the Lower East Side.
The Learning Experience opened its doors at 20 West St. in April 2012 and thrived there until October 29, when Sandy flooded the lower level of the space. While they reopened in January, the school had to seal off the basement floor.
“We were very lucky that the first floor was not damaged,” said business manager Michael Taylor. They are just now finishing repairs on the lower level, and hope to bring in new families to fill out their reopened classrooms, all of which are dedicated to preschool-aged kids.
The facility has a state-of-the-art security system, including digital sign-in with pin numbers and security cameras in all the classrooms.
“I know it’s a lot, but nowadays parents want to make sure their kids are safe,” Taylor said.
The Learning Experience also prides itself on its curriculum, called LEAP, which is instituted across its 115 facilities nationwide. The program statistics speak for themselves: Eighty-eight percent of children read at some level before entering kindergarten. LEAP also teaches sign language at an early age, helping children improve nonverbal communication.
Programs include basic academic subjects, as well as lessons in etiquette and enrichment programs like yoga and dance at no extra cost.
“We strongly believe that what is good for one child is good for all of them,” said Taylor, about offering enrichment programs as part of the curriculum.
To the east, the Educational Alliance’s preschool is flourishing under a different mantra — diversity within a community. The Lower East Side preschool program will move this December into the Manny Cantor Center, at 197 East Broadway, expanding its highly sought-after early childhood classrooms in the coming years.
Founded in 1889 in what was then a thriving center of Jewish culture, the Educational Alliance served Jewish immigrants in the area. Today, it still recognizes its roots. The preschool is a private program nestled into a larger social service that serves about 50,000 New Yorkers a year, said the school’s director Dr. Michelle Sarna. As such, it has a unique relationship to the surrounding community.
“We are a program that is very diverse and we are thoughtful of that diversity,” she said. “But we are also inspired by Jewish values.” The school’s curriculum focuses on a different value each month, culminating in a school-wide celebration where each class shares how they explored that value.
“Part of the core of our program is building community, and one way we have been able to do that is by being part of the community center programs,” said Sarna. “Our children decorated tablecloths which we used in Project Ore, for Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless. We also ran a canned-food drive for it.”
The Educational Alliance offers half-day, full-day and extended-day options, as well as a five- or three-days-per-week schedule. This fall, there are four classrooms dedicated to preschool, plus a “Turning Two” program and the Seeds and Sprouts program. The roster for the 2013-14 school year is full, but Sarna said that they are, of course, always taking inquiries. For more information, call 646-395-4250 or visit edalliance.org.
For more information on The Learning Experience, call 212-797-1110 or visit manhattan.tlechildcare.com. An open house featuring fun, food and activities will take place on Saturday, August 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.