FiDi gets a private elementary school this September

Downtown Express photos by Dusica Sue Malesevic Jennifer Jones, founder of the Pine Street School, which opens in two months with kindergarten, first grade and preschool. Below,  the school’s “River Commons,” where students can play or eat lunch.

Downtown Express photos by Dusica Sue Malesevic
Jennifer Jones, founder of the Pine Street School, which opens in two months with kindergarten, first grade and preschool. Below, the school’s “River Commons,” where students can play or eat lunch.

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC  |  Lower Manhattan parents have another kindergarten option with the opening of private Pine St. School at 25 Pine Street this September.

Pine Street School, which occupies three floors of the Trump Building, will offer preschool through first grade this fall and then launch its middle school next year. Eventually, the school will go until the eighth grade.

This is the second school opening for the Green Ivy Network, which also opened Battery Park Montessori last fall in Battery Park City. The network and its founder, Jennifer Jones, hosted an open house for parents and press on July 17, which included tours of the inviting, white-walled classrooms and green-accented and nature-themed open space.

It represents a celebration and a promise, said Jones, in a speech before she cut the green ribbon at the opening. Jones went on to thank everyone involved with the school opening, but started with her mother first. “After becoming a mom, I realized how important it was to thank you, mom,” she said.

Eileen Baker, the head of the school, an educator who has worked for 20 years at schools in Africa, Europe, and Southeast Asia, spoke about how her experience has affected her view of education. She then introduced the teaching staff. Each teacher spoke for a few moments about their educational background and what they would be teaching at Pine Street.

Lisbeth Woodington, a teacher who will instruct three-to-six-year-olds in the school’s dual language program, said that she wanted the students to “connect with the joy of using two languages” — in this case Spanish and English.

Jones also led parents on a tour of the school. The second floor is missing only the preschool students — tables and chairs are already set up, empty cubby space is itching to be filled, and books, crayons, dolls and games are on display. Indeed, several of the visiting children tested out the space and its offerings with their parents.

“This is what really sold me on the place,” Jones said as she enthusiastically showed parents the huge windows that overlook Chase Manhattan Plaza. She emphasized throughout the tour how the school is connected to the city and its history — with windows in classrooms that look out onto Wall Street and Imagination Playground nearby.

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The third floor will house the elementary school. Jones said she tried to avoid straight hallways and to utilize the space to be “living,” meaning the children could congregate and play in the hallways. Each classroom had round glass holes near the door that will allow parents to observe without disturbing the class. “I was thinking like a mom,” said Jones, whose six-year-old son will attend Pine Street.

The school has a boat in the hallway called “River Commons,” that the children could play or eat lunch on. Surrounding the boat are rocks that are cushions. There is also a cooking project room that Jones envisioned the community using as well. There are science and art rooms, a large room for performance and sports, and an auditorium on the fourth floor.

The school has 40 classrooms with 15 students per class for three-year-olds and up and 10 students per class for the two-year-olds. Around 30 students have already registered and up to 50 may enroll. The total capacity will be 480 students with 90 of those in Montessori, preschool and kindergarten and 45 for first grade. Kindergarten seats will increase next year.

The school is slightly less expensive than its private school neighbors. For full-time students, it costs $29,400, and for two days from 1 to 4 p.m., it costs $9,800. The Blue School at 241 Water St. is $36,900 for full-time four-year-olds and kindergarten through fifth grade. For pre-K full-time at Léman Manhattan Preparatory on 41 Broad St., it costs $37, 300.

Jones said that students would start with a Montessori focus and, as they progressed, the older students would transition into the international baccalaureate program.

“The two schools have different motivations in a way, and in a way there joined,” said Jones when asked about why she founded the two schools. “The big driving motivation for both is that yes, I am a local. I’ve lived in the neighborhood since 2004. I am a mom of now a six-year-old boy, and just like everyone else in the neighborhood I’m really tuned into the fact that the public schools are full and there is a waiting list to get into kindergarten.”

“As a school developer, I’m pushing my son around in a stroller five years ago and thinking ‘I could probably make a contribution to this if I really set my mind to it, maybe I should,’” she said.

“I love Dr. Jones’ philosophy,” said Cara Ottilio-Cooper. She was there with her three-year-old son Michael, who attends Battery Park Montessori. Ottilio-Cooper praised Jones’ choice of staff from parent liaisons to teachers, and was checking out the new school as a possible option.

“The reception from the community has been incredible,” said Jones about Battery Park Montessori. “Most families are returning — the ones who aren’t are moving away. To me that says everything. People tell you with their feet what they like or not at the end of the day — and I feel a real sense of commitment to this neighborhood.”

Veronica Bekkerov was also at the open house to scope out private school choices for her 2-year-old because she said there is not a public school alternative. “We would do pre-K in a heartbeat, but it’s not available,” Bekkerov said.

Overcrowding and lack of preschool seats in Lower Manhattan has been an issue for parents. “It was expected that there would be a shortage of pre-K in Lower Manhattan simply because of the lack of space,” Tricia Joyce, chairperson of the Youth Committee for Community Board 1, said in a phone interview.

Joyce pointed to a huge escalation in the population Downtown — over 200 percent — and the conversion of commercial space into residential. 

“I do think [Pine Street] will help ease the demand,” said Joyce, whose children attended private pre-K after being shut out of the public option in 2006 and 2007. “We are better than we were then, but not where we need to be.”

Prince Dockery isn’t taking chances on his daughter’s preschool education. His daughter Winter is only 7-months old, but Dockery is already looking for a preschool. “It’s my first child here in New York,” he said. “I’m from Texas.”

After taking a tour of the facility, he said it was phenomenal. He and his wife both graduated from Harvard, and he joked that he heard it was easier to get into college than to get his daughter into preschool.

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