UPPER WEST SIDE — A small French bilingual preschool with long hours geared towards working parents is opening on West 97th Street this January.
At Les Petits Sourires, which translates to "the little smiles," the teachers will speak French for the first half of the day and English the second half, said Rose Hanson, the owner.
The 120 West 97th St. school, located between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, will serve children ages 2 to 5 years old, she said. Next September, Hanson will open a bilingual daycare for babies in the same building, she said.
As the mom to a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old and a 2-week-old baby, Hanson understands the needs of working parents in the neighborhood, she said. Hanson moved to New York City from France five years ago and lived on the Upper West Side, but has since moved to Westchester.
Unlike many other preschools in the neighborhood that tend to have shorter hours or half-day programs, Hanson's full-day school will be open seven days a week, she said.
On weekdays, the program will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The school has a five-day program for $2,399, as well as three-day, two-day and half-day options for less.
And on weekends, Les Petits Sourires will offer as-needed drop-in care for $100 a session on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon, and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The idea behind the drop-in program, which will offer the same curriculum and approach as the preschool, is to give parents some much-needed "me time," said Hanson.
"Let’s be honest. We work all the week. We love them so much, but sometimes I just need two hours to debrief, to walk in Central Park, do my hair, do my nails," she said.
Like French preschools, known as "La Maternelle," Hansol has purposefully kept her program small, with space for only 20 students, served by five teachers, all of whom speak French, she said.
The preschool's 1,450-square foot ground-floor space has an open plan and children of all ages will mix, she said.
The idea is to make the school feel "charming" and "homey," she said.
"It’s a commercial space, but I want it to be a family French daycare," said Hanson.
While only half the day will be spent speaking French, all of the enrichment programming will revolve around French culture, including cooking, soccer, music, theater, and art, she said.
The food will be French too, of course — everything from croissants to crepes, she said.
But she'll borrow from the American preschool playbook as well, including the tradition of circle time, where students talk about the weather, the day of the week and have a group discussion, she said.
Sensory exploration and imaginative play, cornerstones of the Montessori philosophy, will also have a place at the preschool, said Hanson.
Les Petits Sourires is offering information sessions every Thursday in December from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Interested parents can RSVP through firstname.lastname@example.org.