Volume 20, Number 47 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | November 17 - 23, 2010
Blue School moves to Water Street
BY John Bayles
What started as a parent-run playgroup in the East Village has transformed into a full-fledged elementary school that will soon call Lower Manhattan home. The Blue School, founded by members of the renowned Blue Man Group, recently entered into a contract to purchase the building at 241 Water Street.
“It’s such a phenomenal building and it will allow our program to flourish,” said Blue School co-founder Renee Rolleri.
The building is currently home to the Seamen Church Institute. The Blue School will begin holding classes in the building in September 2011.
Rolleri said the school, while excited about its new location, would miss the East Village, home of the Blue Man Group and the Astor Place Theater where its shows are performed.
“We’re definitely conflicted and definitely sad about leaving the neighborhood, and mostly the community, that we have been serving,” said Rolleri.
But in the end the decision was all about space, cost and the future. In their search for a new building, Rolleri said the Water Street property was the one building that offered ample space at a price the school could afford.
Rolleri said the affiliation with the Blue Man Group has been helpful in that it has provided a level of visibility that other start-up schools might not receive. It has also resulted in a dire need to find additional space.
Since gaining its 501c3 status in 2008, the school has been holding classes in numerous locations in the East Village. Meanwhile, enrollment has grown and the school has attracted attention from foundations and educational institutions around the world interested in its teaching model; the school believes in a co-constructivist philosophy where intellectual learning is equal to emotional learning and where creativity is highly valued.
The interest caused the school to create a teachers training institute that will also be located in the new building. On Monday, the school hosted over 300 educators from New York City and around the world at the Astor Place Theater. Next year, it will be able to accommodate the same crowd under the same roof as the school itself.
The Water Street building is six stories tall, with a gallery space and chapel located on the ground floor, an event space on the top floor, and offices on the floors in between. Rolleri said construction would be minimal, with the school only needing to erect a few walls for classroom space. The chapel will be used as a performance space and a play-space.
The new, permanent home on Water Street will offer the school, which enrolls roughly 150 students, the chance to expand in the future. Presently the school consists of pre-K through second grade and a third grade class will be added next year. Plans call for a one-grade expansion every year until it reaches fifth grade. The school is also looking into a possible middle school program.
The school originated when many of the founders of the Blue Man Group began to have children. Rolleri said one thing all of the parents noticed was the fact that in nursery school, “the whole child is educated.”
“We wanted to carry that model on, after nursery school,” said Rolleri.
While the Financial District, as a neighborhood, might not conjure the same creative thoughts or artsy nostalgia as the East Village, Rolleri is thrilled with the school’s new location.
“It feels like this magical environment for children, away from the hustle and bustle of the city,” said Rolleri.
And Rolleri is also aware of the rebirth currently happening in Lower Manhattan.
“As sad as we are to leave the East Village, we’re really excited to be [downtown] and to be a part of the revitalization.”