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Inside the Sandbox


Christ Church Day School

520 Park Avenue, at 60th Street

Price Ranges from $5,995 for two half-days (for 2-year-olds) to $13,620 for three full days and two half-days (for 5-year-olds).

Acceptance rate Five applications for each acceptance (after legacies are taken into account). A picnic compared with Episcopal. "Christ Church is one of the few I know that sends applications out in mid-October," notes one mother. "It wasn't difficult to get through to anybody."

Amenities Grand (and secure) entrance through a courtyard on Park Avenue and 60th Street; playroom on the roof.

Feeder to . . . Spence, Chapin, Collegiate, Dalton, Riverdale, Trinity, Nightingale-Bamford, and Town.

Boldface parents Donald and Ivana Trump.

The program Traditional, low-key, and nonsectarian. "They don't go out of their way to celebrate holidays at all," says one mother. "There's not even Halloween."

Social studies A social-register set that doesn't make headlines. "Every little kid at Christ Church had a designer label on every piece of clothing," says one mom who took a tour. Adds another: "It is very mink-coat."

All Souls

1157 Lexington Avenue, at 80th Street

Price Ranges from $5,625 for two half-days (for 2-year-olds) to $9,600 for five half-days (for ages 3 and up).

Acceptance rate The first area school to institute an application lottery. Odds are three to one against even getting an application. "It's not about competing," says Dr. Jean Mandelbaum, the school's director. "We want diversity, which you can only get by being random."

Amenities Prime Park Avenue block with a garden. The rooftop play area has climbing equipment and an assortment of musical toys.

The program Hip, by East Side standards. From the brochure: "Learning depends upon the child's direct interaction with the environment." "Just the other day, a student wanted to know about castles and suggested we search the Internet," Mandelbaum says. "We learned about Belvedere Castle in Central Park, and walked over to see it."

Social studies One rung down from Episcopal: a mix of Upper East Side professionals in finance, media, and medicine. "When I went for my interview, I thought I was going to an open house -- I didn't know I was being interviewed," one mother says. "I went in my regular sweatshirt and blue jeans, my whole mom outfit, and everyone else was wearing Chanel suits."

Feeder to . . . The full array of single-sex and co-ed private schools.

Just how real is that lottery? "Apparently, they really are honest about it," says one dad. "Because I know someone who hit up one of the teachers for help, and there was nothing the teacher could do for her."

Boldface parents Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, Sigourney Weaver, Cyndi Lauper, Art Garfunkel.

Madison Avenue Presbyterian Day School

921 Madison Avenue, near 73rd Street

Price Starts at $10,000 for four half-days; $900 extra for each full day (for ages 2 and up).

Acceptance rate Twenty-five to 30 percent; preference goes to church members with at least a year's standing.

Motto "A place where a child can be a child."

Amenities A covered playground atop two floors of the church's nine-story neo-Renaissance parish house.

The program "Child-centered," meaning heavy on the blocks and clay and light on the books.

Social studies Very Upper East Side, despite director Patricia Pell's efforts to reach out to a broader cultural and socioeconomic background. She takes a progressive approach: "Over here, they're not skilled and drilled," she says, but rather encouraged to learn through play and creativity.

Feeder to . . . The classic prep and single-sex schools.

The vibe Calmer and more down-to-earth than Episcopal. "I think Mrs. Pell is pretty serious," one parent says. A father who is part of the art world says he "just enjoys hanging out with the normal people -- the bankers. It's more hometowny than what people are used to. You kind of relax a little because all you're doing is play dates."

Park Avenue Christian Church Day School

1010 Park Avenue, near 84th Street

Price Ranges from $6,250 for two half-days a week (for 2-year-olds) to $13,500 for five full days (for 5-year-olds).

Acceptance rate Four hundred applications for 70 slots (but the siblings policy cuts that to about 35 slots for new families).

Amenities Outdoor roof area, fully stocked basement gym.

The program Developmental -- children learn at their own pace. "We'll teach arithmetic through cooking," says director Betsy Newell, who interviews each child personally. "Or use Play-Doh to strengthen muscles so they can hold a pencil."

Social studies Episcopal lite -- less regimented and not quite as blue-blood. "There's plenty of money, but people don't wear it," says one mom. But a dad remarks, "I'm amazed at how boring some of these people are. A lot of bankers and lawyers. But not the heavy-duty social people who have three nannies and never spend much time with their kids."

Feeder to . . . Almost half the students go on to single-sex private schools.

Sea change Last year, Newell replaced legendary headmaster Mitten Wainwright. "She left, and everyone thought that was the end," one parent says. "But Betsy has proved herself. One, she's just really relaxed. And she got a lot of kids into good schools this year."

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