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Rodeph Sholom

10 West 84th Street

Price Ranges from $7,900 for two half-days (for 2-year-olds) to $16,800 for five full days (ages 4 and 5).

Acceptance rate Five or six applicants for every spot. "I know someone who gave a window to Rodeph Sholom, and the kid didn't get in," says one parent.

Amenities "I just like the physical plant," one mom says. "I feel like my daughter's walking into an elementary school." And she is: Temple Rodeph Sholom, the colossal West Side shul, also has a day school.

Not-so-secret weapon Headmaster Irwin Shlacter is "a huge schmoozer like you can't imagine," one mom says. "A hugger and a kisser on the street. Teachers and parents love him." The program Jewish, but not exclusively, though congregants get "huge preference," according to one insider.

East meets West The exclusivity and posh flavor of Temple Emanu-El has moved across town. "The auction last year was unbelievable," a mom says. "It looked like the Emanu-El parent body -- lots of Chanel. They used to not particularly like Wall Streeters. Most of my kids' friends' parents are in journalism, writing, music. But in the last two years, they've realized that to get contributions, they had to accept the lawyers and the Wall Streeters."

Feeder to . . . Rodeph continues to sixth grade, and like many continuing schools, it won't help you if you want to switch to another school for kindergarten. "We had to go to another school for the ERB," one parent says. "They won't even help interpret ERB data."

Only on the West Side, kids Some things happen here that simply wouldn't occur at Emanu-El, however -- as when two gay male parents last year persuaded the school to ban Mother's Day. "They actually listened to them!" one parent says.

St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's School

619 West 114th Street

Price Ranges from $6,200 for three full days (for 2-year-olds) to $15,750 for five full days (ages 4 and 5).

Acceptance rate Admissions director Roxandra Antoniadis says she expects five open slots a year, but "it's a policy never to tell anyone how many applications we get."

Amenities A mammoth day school that continues to the eighth grade. A large outside play deck, a fabulous library, a flat-screen TV on the wall broadcasting children's birthdays.

The program Traditional, with an emphasis on ethics. "I don't know of any other preschool that offers a foreign language at age 3," one mother says.

Social studies Upper West Side media types (tons from the Times), Columbia professors, British expats. "It's racially diverse," says one parent. "But I don't think it's that diverse in terms of economics." Adds another: "There are very successful people there -- not necessarily famous people but people doing nuclear-science research."

Who's the boss Virginia Connor, charismatic headmistress notoriously unimpressed with status.

Typical drop-off conversation "Hey, I loved this week's column!"

Downtown/Brooklyn


Beginnings

130 East 16th Street

Price Ranges from $5,025 for two half-days (for 2-year-olds) to $11,050 for five half-days (ages 3 to 5).

Acceptance rate Three to four applicants for every slot.

Amenities First two floors of a brownstone with a backyard. No gym, but the backyard features a sand-play area.

The program "We're invested in what the children bring to school, their interests," says assistant director Jane Racoosin. "That's how we make our curriculum."

Social studies Artists, writers, teachers, bankers, lawyers, and movie stars. Boldface parents Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins.

What they're looking for Director Sheila Wolper "acts as if she's the dean of admissions at the University of Chicago," one parent says. Adds another: "One of her big speeches is, 'This isn't about smarts; this is about social stuff. We don't want a kid who's always playing the baby or the dog in every situation.' But my wife says all the kids she knew who made it in are quiet and docile, which means they're easy to work with."

The interview "You sit in a group with other parents," says one dad. "Afterward, I told my wife, 'We can't go to this school; we're not good-looking enough.' "

Feeder to . . . Friends, Ethical Culture, Grace Church, Little Red School House, Dalton, St. Ann's, Brearley, Spence, Trevor Day.

No comment Open houses feel like White House press conferences. "Even when somebody specifically asked how many spots they had, they wouldn't say," one mom complains. "But they were perfectly happy to take the application fees from hundreds of families."

First Presbyterian Church Nursery School

12 West 12th Street

Price Ranges from $4,318 for two half-days (for 2-year-olds) to $10,527 for four full days, one half-day (ages 4 and 5).

Amenities Located on the fourth floor of the Edgar Tafel–designed Church House; there is a children's library and a woodworking room.

Hot ticket Thirty openings for 2-year-olds each year; congregants and siblings get priority.

Guiding wisdom "Children learn and mature through social experiences."

The program "I wouldn't be surprised if people called the children by their last names," says one parent. "It's a little bit more conventional," says another. " 'Okay, everybody, it's story time,' instead of 'Let's discuss why Olivia's painting mixes blue and red and makes purple.' " Social studies Buttoned-down, for the Village. At a recent open house, "the crowd seemed a little conservative," one mom recalls. "Neither of us were in suits, and we were the only ones." Says another parent: "There's a little section of downtown that can feel like uptown -- that's what it's like."

Having fun yet? "The children didn't look like they were having much fun," says one mom. "Maybe that's because it's Waspy and more reserved."

Feeder to . . . Uptown private schools as well as local favorites like Little Red School House and Brooklyn's Packer and St. Ann's.

Boldface parents A host of celebrity restaurateurs, including Savoy's Peter Hoffman.


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