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Tony Park Ave. Preschool Starts More Than a Week Late Amid Student Exodus

By Victoria Bekiempis | September 19, 2013 10:37am
 Park Avenue Christian Church is located at 1010 Park Ave., at East 85th Street.
Park Avenue Christian Church is located at 1010 Park Ave., at East 85th Street.
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Facebook/Park Avenue Christian Church

UPPER EAST SIDE — The Park Avenue Christian Church Day School is a week late in starting the academic year because its new Upper West Side campus isn't ready yet — contributing to the exodus of 100 families from the esteemed preschool, DNAinfo New York has learned.

The school told parents in mid-August that the $20,000-per-year pre-kindergarten, long popular among the Upper East Side elite, would be moved across Central Park to 4 W. 76th St. in September because its former building is slated for development. The Park Avenue Christian Church-run school has cited financial problems as the impetus for selling its academic building for development into a new residential high-rise, according to church officials and parishioners.

Because the new campus is far for many Upper East Side students, 100 families have withdrawn from the school — more than the amount of families noted in prior reports, a parent leader said.

The school was not immediately available to confirm the number of withdrawals or the original number of students. But parents say there had previously been between 200 and 225 preschoolers there.

Parents who have stayed at the preschool, located at 1010 Park Ave. and East 85th Street, now say the move has delayed the school year by more than a week after it was supposed to start on Sept. 11.

Senior Pastor Alvin Jackson confirmed a Community Board 8 meeting Wednesday that the school's opening was delayed because of city permit issues.

"We're just getting the appropriate permits from the Buildings Department and the Health Department," Jackson said.

Jackson said the school would open Thursday morning in its new home, but parents said they'd been told that they would have to remain with their children for the entire school day because the school did not yet have the permits it needed. 

Kate Lockwood, an Upper East Side resident and parent, said at the CB8 meeting she'd been told that the normal school schedule, which would allow her to drop off her child, would not resume until next week.

"I have to be in the building for four hours," she said. "That's not what I paid for."

Lockwood also criticized the new school building as too small and added that it doesn't have proper bathrooms or play spaces.

Asked about criticisms of the new school building, Jackson agreed that it was different than the former 26,000-square-foot facility on the Upper East Side.

"The space is not as large as the space we had on Park Avenue — it's about a 10,000-square-foot difference," he said, without elaborating on the state of the facilities.  

Officials at the school referred additional questions to business manager Melissa Little, who said she wasn't sure whether parental supervision would be required at the school on Thursday.

"I honestly don't know what they're doing tomorrow," she said Wednesday night.

Officials could not be reached at the school Thursday morning.

Lockwood, who said she spoke on behalf of 200 school families, implored CB8 to ask that the Landmarks Preservation Committee consider protecting the church and its annex, which used to serve as the school's building.

Opponents hope the LPC will designate the church and five-story school a "landmark" — which could thwart plans for a 16-story residential tower and which parents hope could save the school. The sale has not been finalized.

CB8 ultimately resolved to refer the property to LPC for review.