Searching for a Preschool? The pressure continues

Long considered the “bible” for parents in search of nursery schools, Victoria Goldman has just revised The Manhattan Directory of Private Nursery Schools (Soho Press, $30).

Author Goldman

   Like its forerunners (this is its sixth edition), the book provides comprehensive information provided by administrators and teachers, as well as alumni, students, tutors, educational consultants, and parents.  It covers educational approaches, admissions policies, facilities and tuition for private preschools, daycare centers, and special needs programs in the city.
   What is so different now is the landscape, says Goldman. “It was always competitive to get into a nursery school ... now it’s even harder.” She says the number of applications has risen 25 to 30 percent since 2000, due to higher birth rates and wealthier parents who can afford sky-high tuition.

   While Goldman maintains, “the Upper East Side is kingpin of all nursery schools,” she notes the opening of many nursery schools downtown. “Families are flocking there,” she says, adding that the new schools are not only providing places for pre-schoolers, they are also serving the community’s needs with innovative curricula. “There is every permutation of Montessori!” she remarks.  Are there enough places, however, for the burgeoning ranks of families who live downtown?  We’re likely to see more downtown school openings, as Goldman declares that right now, there are “just about enough.”

   Goldman, who lives on the Upper East Side, has two children, 20 and 18.  She started writing earlier editions of the book as a result of her own nursery school search as a mom. She lived in Murray Hill at the time, and options were limited, especially since she didn’t want to travel far.  Her kids attended different nursery schools in the end.  Ironically, her son, who is younger, went to a “slightly more high profile” school than his sister, but her daughter’s school turned out to be a better fir for her. ”We wanted to try something different for my son,” she said.  “In a city with so much choice, why not?  In this case, it was a nursery school with a wider list of kindergartens that graduates attended.  Turns out it didn't much matter; both children enrolled at the same ongoing school and it was a great fit for both kids all the way through twelfth grade.”

   Still, while parents need to worry about choosing the right school for their children, they also have to worry about their children being accepted by the school. “The schools, particularly nursery school directors, are looking for really high caliber, good families that share their values and can contribute in a variety of ways to the school's community.  This really translates into parents who enjoy spending quality time with their children, know who their kids are, and help shape their lives in healthy, normal, ways,” Goldman believes.  “It takes a savvy director and an admissions process that's thoughtful and thorough to figure this out.  More than ever,” she notes, “schools are reluctant to accept children right off the bat. There is big play in the wait lists, when admissions is figuring out who’s really going to come.”

   And more than ever, “the world of NYC nursery schools is connected,” Goldman says, acknowledging that applicants can help their chances of being accepted at a particular school through a pre-existing network of family members or business connections. "It is not surprising that in a city where six degrees of separation is the norm, the right space tends to be awarded to the right child more often than not."  But, she agrees, this can make getting into the preschool of your choice very difficult.  Parents without “the right connections” can take comfort in the fact that, “There is always room for new blood at all the schools, although at some schools it might only be only one spot.  Connections often help, but they are not by any means guarantees.  Most importantly, schools have to feel that the fit is right.  For sure, there is a place for every child, it just might not be a family's first choice.”

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