Inside the Sandbox

East Side

1395 Lexington Avenue, at 92nd StreetPrice Ranges from $7,300 for two half-days (for 2-year-olds) to $14,400 for five full days (ages 4 and 5).Acceptance rate Sixty-five openings a year and just 300 tour appointments. (To get one, start speed-dialing the admissions office the day after Labor Day.) Observers of l’affaire Grubman-Weill may be surprised that money doesn’t always open the door. “I had a friend who had gone but couldn’t get her daughter in – even though I’m sure her family gave money,” says one mom.The program Its exclusivity isn’t the only reason it’s known as the Harvard of nursery schools. “The teachers are phenomenal,” marvels one parent. “There’s commitment, sophistication, and interest in child development. They can recite the nuanced differences between a 3-year-old and a 3-year-3-month-old child. That makes it exciting.”Social studies The Y is the cultural epicenter of Jewish New York, but the nursery attracts parents of all faiths. “There are non-Jewish families who celebrate the Sabbath now because the kids like it,” says one mom. And there are other forms of diversity: During the nineties, one mom remarks, the Y became less neighborhoody, drawing kids from as far as Soho. Snipes another, “Diversity at the Y is who has a plane and who doesn’t.”Feeder to … A Y diploma is more or less a Go Directly to the Prep School of Your Choice card.Boldface parents New York’s version of Dynasty: Lauders, Bronfmans, and Tisches start their academic lives here. Recent Y parents include Woody Allen, Phoebe Cates and Kevin Kline, Katie Couric, Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan, and Ian Schrager.

35 East 69th Street Price Ranges from $8,788 for five two-hour days (for 2-year-olds) to $9,812 for five full days (for 3 and up).Hot ticket “I have a friend who’s Jewish who joined the church a few years ahead of time to help get her child in,” says one mother. Still, it’s unlikely that proud Episcopal parents Ron Perelman and Harvey Weinstein joined the congregation. “I wouldn’t go so far as to call it meritocratic, but it’s breachable,” says one dad. The program The white-glove treatment. “It’s hyperorganized, just the most perfect kind of place,” says one dad. “They’re so nice – and you feel so bad when you don’t get in.” Social studies Very Bonfire of the Vanities – the most socially stellar of all the preschools. Nothing matches the mommy fashion show at Episcopal’s pickup. “It’s sort of like a straight line from there to the Times ‘Sunday Styles’ section,” reports one dad. Small world One mother says the school encourages families to make birthday parties intramural affairs. “Do they think a small party is something they’d enjoy more?” she wonders. “Or are they frightened we might invite the wrong people?”The interview One of the only nursery schools with a one-on-one interview with the children. “One person talks to the parents, and one sits with the child,” reports one father. “You can lose your mind wondering if your kid is doing something wrong.”Feeder to … Everywhere private and exclusive. “I remember meeting a mother who had kids at Episcopal,” one mom says, “and she said, ‘The best thing about Episcopal is the way they package your kid for the kindergarten process,’ ” one mom says. “And I was like, you’re choosing a preschool because of the way they package your child?”

62 East 92nd StreetPrice Ranges from $10,200 for five half-days (for 3-year-olds) to $13,200 for three full days and two half-days (ages 4 and 5). Acceptance rate Six applications per acceptance.The program “We’ve been called traditional because we teach skills,” director Lydia Spinelli says of the school’s emphasis on literacy and math. “But we do integrate project work that comes out of the interests of the children.”The vibe As blue-blood as it gets, short of Episcopal. “It’s a wholesome place,” one father says. A dissenting parental opinion: “It’s very Stepford Wives. It’s very homogenous. Everyone’s cute.”Royal treatment “I’ll never forget,” one mom says, “at the new parents’ tea, a 3-year-old was wearing a name tag that identified her as a princess! Were we all supposed to fall down and kiss her boots?” Boldface parents Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece, Katie Couric.The real headmaster – the man upstairs Church members get preference. (The school discourages cheaters by requiring two years’ membership before that preference kicks in.) The required weekly chapel is ecumenical. “It’s sweet,” says one parent. “It’s like, ‘Oh, we talked about sharing.’ Nothing too heavy.”Feeder to … The majority go on to single-sex schools.Social studies “Its social wattage is lower than Episcopal’s,” one father says, “but only to the extent that Carnegie Hill is slightly lower-key than Park Avenue in the Sixties.” Adds a mother with a day job, “If you rank preschools in terms of comfort level for women who work, Brick Church does not rank very high. It’s full of women who went to Princeton and stopped working so they could have children. And now they’re ferociously funneling all of their energies and misguided intellectualism into this child-rearing process.”

1 East 65th StreetPrice Ranges from $6,200 for two half-days (for 2-year-olds) to $12,560 for four full days and one half-day (for ages 3 and up).Hot ticket “It has long been our policy to give priority to members of the congregation and siblings,” the Website notes, adding ominously: “However, that priority is not automatic.”The program Traditional, with Jewish programming from the synagogue. “A warm, comfortable environment in which children can develop physically, emotionally, and intellectually.” Amenities “I have to say that the facility is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen for a nursery school in my entire life,” one mom says. “You couldn’t ask for a tidier space – clean and bright and lots of nice windows.”Social studies “My husband called drop-off ‘the Prada parade,’ ” says one mom. “Not that many of the moms work. There was a big group that would go off to a special exercise class nearby. One woman said to me, ‘You’re so lucky your daughter has big feet.’ And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And she said, ‘Well, she can fit into Gucci loafers already!’ ” Feeder to … The best and brightest day schools. “Yes, the director is wired, and she gets kids in places,” one parent says.

520 Park Avenue, at 60th StreetPrice 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.”

1157 Lexington Avenue, at 80th StreetPrice 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.

921 Madison Avenue, near 73rd StreetPrice 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.”

1010 Park Avenue, near 84th StreetPrice 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.”

West Side

309 West 92nd StreetPrice Ranges from $11,420 for five half-days (for all ages) to $17,884 for five extended days. Motto “Where to begin.” Hot ticket “They said, ‘You have to be prepared to have your kid come in the afternoon,’ ” one spurned parent sniffs. ” ‘It’s the only way your kid’s going to get a place.’ Well, whose convenience is this about?”Amenities A double brownstone near Riverside Park. In the works: a retractable cover for the rooftop playground. The program “We focus on character-building and problem-solving, the fact that there are multiple realities,” says headmaster Marlene Barron, “and how we can prepare children to live in peace with people with whom they might disagree.”The vibe Organic milk and green toilet paper. “Everything about the school is about respecting the community and the larger world,” says one mom. “There’s nothing that’s taken for granted. Every song they sing, every outing they have. It’s truly the best of p.c.”Social studies Barron calls her school the “multi-multi-school,” as in multiethnic, -racial, and -economic. “My child’s teachers are from four continents!” one mom gushes. “Thailand, Sweden, Colombia, and Brooklyn!” The racial and ethnic mix beats the East Side schools’, though one parents says, “I don’t want to make it sound as if there are a bunch of janitors sending their kids here. It’s a rich school.”Hidden costs “There’s no question that parents are expected to do things to help the school so the headmaster will work hard for your child’s exmissions,” says one parent. “Some people say all she cares about is exmissions.”Feeder to … Collegiate is a favorite, though about a third of the kids go on to public schools. “It’s a good place if you want to get through the public process,” says one parent. “The Mandell School ignores that – they don’t want a kid to go to public school.”Drop-off conversation Politics, politics, and politics. Barron has spotted a few Republican parents.Nobody’s perfect “We would like to have more gay parents,” one mom says.

127 West 94th StreetPrice Ranges from $4,000 for two half-days (for 2-year-olds), to $13,000 for four full days, one half-day (ages 4 and 5).Acceptance rate 120 applicants for about twelve spots.Watchwords “Good citizenship,” says Gabriella Rowe, whose grandfather Max Mandell founded this school in a stately Upper West Side townhouse in 1939. The program The lofty goal: to have kids entering kindergarten ready for the first grade. “People think it’s great that their kids come out knowing what a suspension bridge is,” says one critic. “But they have these books that children make, alphabet books, a collage about an ant hill, a building. I looked at one and it was wonderful, and I looked at another and it was exactly the same. It was so noncreative.”Adult ed “This is not the school for parents who want to drop their kids off and pick them up two years later,” says Rowe. Parents are expected to take their children on museum trips, help on projects, and keep up with the newsletter. Feeder to … Dalton, Spence, and Chapin. According to Rowe’s honor system, parents don’t discuss the exmissions process. “We wanted to make sure that the Mandell community was a sanctuary from the hysteria,” she says.Hot ticket Still, for their own applicants, “they tell you you have to write a first-choice letter,” one mom says. “Everyone makes you feel that if you write more than one first-choice letter, you’ll get caught. So we only used the words first choice in one letter, but we wrote to every school. My husband was horrified, but I wanted my kid to go someplace good.”

Barnard College Center for Toddler Development3009 Broadway, at 118th StreetPrice $3,800 for two sessions a week.Hot ticket “I’m sure people in the community would say it’s hard to get in,” says co-director Tovah Klein. The program Way scientific, bordering on the clinical. Run by Barnard’s psychology department, this small program doubles as a research and training center – complete with two-way mirrors – for students and parents alike. “There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles, like art or music,” says one parent. “It’s about teaching the child who’s weak to stand up and say, ‘No, this is mine,’ and teaching the strong child that they can’t hit.” The mirrors do freak some people out. “Is your child a guinea pig?” one wonders. Social studies “Last year, there were East Side people who are incredibly rich,” one parent says. “And a woman who taught English as a second language with an adopted Guatemalan kid.” Boldface parent Wendy Wasserstein.Separation anxiety Klein explains that “parents are required to stay with their children the first four weeks of school, since our big focus is on the task of separation.”

610 West 112th StreetPrice Ranges from $14,300 for five half-days (for 3-year-olds) to $16,750 for four full days, one half-day (ages 4 and 5).Hot ticket Way oversubscribed, so there are no guarantees, even with siblings. “They have so many applicants that they do it on a strict formula based on the number of years your sibling has been at Bank Street,” says one parent. “At least they’re trying to be fair,” shrugs another. “They could stock it with just siblings and staff children.” Adds a mother: “There are only sixteen spots for 3-year-olds. They don’t even see people until they know how many siblings they’re taking.”The program Bank Street practically invented the developmental approach to nursery school, in which kids are allowed to follow their own interests, in order to get them excited about learning. “It’s not about workbooks,” says one parent. “There’s a lot of discussion in class, so they’re really encouraged to think critically, to talk about their feelings.” Social studies Musicians, doctors, lawyers, reporters, social workers, psychologists. “It’s diverse,” says one parent, “while keeping in mind that the parents are very involved with their kids.”What they’re looking for “I think Bank Street is looking for creative children who are self-starters, self-initiators,” says one parent. “You can tell that from the way they just leave your child with things around during the interview – puppets and plastic animals and blocks.”

10 West 84th StreetPrice 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.

619 West 114th StreetPrice 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!”


130 East 16th StreetPrice 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.”

12 West 12th StreetPrice 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.

134 Duane Street (11⁄2- to 31⁄2-year-olds)
55 Hudson Street (21⁄2- to 51⁄2-year-olds).
Price Ranges from $4,400 for two half-days (all ages) to $15,800 for five full days (all ages).Hot ticket “The morning program on Hudson Street is totally over-subscribed,” says director-founder Ronnie Moskowitz. “We’ll probably have to do a lottery, and even that will be with children in the younger program on Duane Street.”Amenities Loft buildings on the edge of Chinatown; Duane Street is a double-wide loft with skylights. Both sites have a gym and music room.The program As Tribeca has changed, so has the Montessori-affiliated Washington Market School. There’s more pressure now for the school to embrace the ERB. “Washington Market doesn’t believe in testing a child at that age,” says one mother. “We have to go outside, to an office situation or a different school.”Movin’ on up “It used to be really artsy, and now it’s really Wall Street,” whispers one mom. “But Ronnie is trying hard to keep it diverse. The parents of some of the kids have actually been nannies in the neighborhood.” Social studies Good-bye to the funky street fair, hello to the silent auction. Still, one mom notes, “I don’t feel like I need to get dressed up to go pick up our kids. I wore overalls on the class apple-picking trip. Even though these families could function in an Upper East Side world, they’ve chosen Washington Market because they like the more inclusive feeling.”Feeder to … St. Ann’s, Packer, Friends Seminary, United Nations International School, Little Red School House, public gifted programs.Boldface parents Spike Lee, Julian Schnabel, Nicole Miller.

146 West 13th StreetPrice Ranges from $10,600 for five half-days (2-year-olds) to $15,200 for five full days (4-year-olds).Acceptance rate Three applicants for every slot.Amenities Three connected brownstones share a backyard. The play area’s building blocks were designed by the school’s founder, Caroline Pratt. Motto “Learning from children since 1914.”The program It’s the oldest progressive school in the nation. “They have this experimental philosophy,” one mom says. “Kids paint with one color in the twos, then add another in the threes. The theory is, you’ll be forced to use your imagination.” Says another: “It’s not for people who are concerned about getting their kids into Harvard.”Social studies “It’s nice that every single person isn’t a banker,” says one mom. At one auction, Sarah Jessica Parker donated a visit to the Sex and the City set. (Matthew Broderick is an alum.) Feeder to … Dalton, Calhoun, Friends Seminary, and St. Ann’s – but don’t expect much help with exmissions. City & Country continues through middle school. “The school’s interested in keeping children for a long-term commitment,” one mom says. People like us One former member of the diversity committee says, “My daughter’s adopted from China, and we learned that not everyone was in favor of making the school population wider in range. It’s hard for me to comprehend. You know, ‘I’m okay and to hell with everybody else.’ It was one of the reasons why we left.”

345 West 14th StreetPrice Ranges from $3,255 for two half-days (all ages) to $11,550 for five full days (all ages).Hot ticket “The open house was hot, we couldn’t all fit in the room, people couldn’t sit down,” one mom recalls. “They would accept applications with your check and then said they were going to conduct a lottery. If you knew the director, I’m sure your application was accepted, but I respect the idea that they were at least trying to make it look fair.”Amenities An enormous roof-deck playground tops the school’s open loft space.Guiding wisdom “We envisioned a place where children could grow in a natural way,” says the brochure.Program Arm’s-length from the preschool scene: There’s no ERB testing on the premises. “It’s not highly academic, it’s not as aggressive as the 92nd Street Y,” one parent says. “There’s less posturing. It’s more about socialization in the beginning.” Personality Founder Jean Rosenberg dominates this compact community school with a smile. “She’s magnetic,” one father says. “She’s at the door greeting everyone, remembering everyone’s mother-in-law’s name.”Feeder to … Village Community School (Rosenberg is on the board), Little Red School House, Grace Church, P.S. 41.

375 Pearl Street, BrooklynPrice Ranges from $6,900 for three half-days (for 2-year-olds) to $17,300 for five extended days (3-year-olds). Social studies “Brooklyn has gotten as competitive as Manhattan,” says one mom of the preschool scene across the river. While St. Ann’s has always been difficult to get into, its preschool is for 3-year-olds, and you have to reapply to the kindergarten. Brooklyn Friends, however, takes you at 2 and keeps you till you vote. Amenities Inside Brooklyn Law School’s original Art Deco building, the school boasts two indoor gyms, a rooftop playground, and two dance studios.The program A Quaker school, Brooklyn Friends takes a classic developmental approach while stressing the importance of community service. The art program is a standout. Feeder to … About three quarters of the students stay on. The others go off to either public school or the top private schools. The vibe “Friends is much more Brooklyn than St. Ann’s,” one parent says. “It’s located downtown, and when you’re heading to it from the outside, it is not a nice neighborhood at all. But you walk inside, and it’s this great little oasis.” Hot ticket Preschool head Karen Luks insists, “We don’t keep track of these statistics, but yes, there are many more applications than spots available.” One parent says that when she tried to enroll her son, there were hundreds of applicants but only two spots for 2-year-olds: “The Quaker, noncompetitive, we’re-all-friends message of the school was at odds with how competitive it was.”

Additional reporting by David Amsden, Aric Chen, and Jada Yuan.

The Price of Perfection
“Nursery school is where it begins – it’s a portal, or perhaps more accurately a test. The first test. Are you up to it?” Michael Wolff on what’s really at stake.

Inside the Sandbox