This evening an annual tradition is taking place–we are hosting a reception to welcome the parents who will be joining our community in September. Our Director of Admissions Mireille Desalm and I are looking forward to seeing them again–we already met every new child and parent as part of the admissions process–and to giving them a taster of our legendary social gatherings on the rooftop of the Maternelle Building.
The range of possibilities in terms of the number of schools and educational styles that abound in New York City is striking, especially for someone like me who grew up in France. The lifting of the COVID restrictions, which had impacted different schools in different ways (those of you who were at The École will remember that our response was much lauded!) means that this year’s admissions campaign was a highly competitive one. I for one am extremely proud of the work we accomplished: The École is now on everyone’s radar and as such the parents who will be joining us in September have made an informed decision. They were in a position to compare, study, analyze, and question. They know who we are, what we do, and how we do it, and they can see the direction we are going in. They have chosen our school and our community and that is extremely important to us because it is precisely the spirit we wanted to preserve and strengthen.
At the same time, these families are joining us at a new phase in The École’s (hi)story; we are reaching the end of our growth spurt with many of our classes at capacity next year. We found ourselves in a position whereby we have to create waiting lists and turn down a far greater number of applications than in the past. Similarly to the families who visit us, we also have a choice to make–a choice that has become more pressing since we made the decision to reduce the maximum number of students in our Kindergarten, Elementary, and Middle School classes to 18 rather than 20 (one of the things that set us apart from other schools.)
Telling parents that we do not have any available spaces for their child(ren) is one of the downsides of my job. There is zero pleasure to be had in it. The conversations are complicated because families then have to reconsider their options. This year, we had to close the doors to The École to children that we would have loved to have welcomed. There are multiple criteria at play in our decision-making process. For example, we demand a lot from our students, academically speaking, are we sure this particular child will thrive in that context? Our teachers are extraordinary and we tend to think that they can help every child flourish in their care! And what about the financial considerations? The financial assistance we offer to families is finite. As a result, we had to be particularly attentive this year when extending financial assistance to new families in order to ensure that it didn’t impact the support we provide to current families. We also have to ask if the family will be a good fit for our community–will they be happy here and will they make us happy? These are all very difficult questions to ask and the answers are pluriform.
Taking all of those considerations into account, we are anticipating moderate growth this year, with greater balance in our student numbers across all grade levels–we will for example have the same number of students in Kindergarten as in 5th Grade next year, which is a very auspicious sign. The growth we experienced in recent years empowered us to become the school we are today and we are now moving on to meet new challenges, including how to benefit from our community’s newfound (strength in) numbers to build an innovative, stimulating, and unique pedagogical project together. There you go, we’re not on summer vacation yet and I am already looking forward to back-to-school.