Catching Up with New Kids: German School Manhattan

It’s been just over a year since the German School Manhattan took over the former Church Street School on Warren and it has already tripled in size, starting with eight students in September 2018 and now housing 26 in kindergarten and first grade. Created to be a bilingual elementary school, GSM will eventually go up to fifth with a cap of 20 per grade. Of course my first thought was, how many people on the planet speak German? But it turns out the answer is 95 million across 12 countries, which should be enough to fill a school or two in New York City.

“We happened out of a real need for families who live here, who want the kids to be able speak to Grandma,” said Julia Stratmann, the school’s marketing director. The parent body is about 10 percent expats, 80 percent German speakers (or at least one at home) and 10 percent what the head of school, Hila Nawa Alam, called “the courageous ones.” There is no requirement that German be spoken at home, though the kids’ days at school will be 50/50 – each subject area is taught in both languages, depending on the day (see the typical K schedule below).

The school is an offshoot of the German School Brooklyn, founded six years ago by two women who wanted their kids to learn German and get exposure to German curricula. But even among the indoctrinated, there’s been some pushback for not being American enough, and some compromises as a result: in Germany, language skills are not introduced until first grade. “The German educational philosophy is ‘let’s play in the mud until we’re 6’ but kids here are ready to learn earlier,” said Julia. The teachers are German natives with certifications in either the US or Germany; most of the teaching materials, such as workbooks and other classroom materials, are imported.

While the two borough schools share the same lineage, they are not the same entity. The Brooklyn branch is a non-profit, while GSM is a for-profit; tuition is $28k a year. There are after school classes in music, language, soccer (with SocRoc) and what they call the German Clubhouse open to all kids, not just enrolled students.

They have also built partnerships with two German kids organizations – the Galli Theater, which uses their black box space for children’s parties, performances and classes; and Kinderbooks, a lending library that mails German children’s books so subscribers a la the old Netflix.

Both women admitted that learning German is no picnic – German syntax is complicated, with extra verb conjugations and three gender agreements. But, Hila argued, ultimately it’s good for the brain — and the child. “We strongly believe a bilingual school is the school of the future.”

The school will host its next open house on Wednesday, Nov. 20, from 9 to 10a.

German School Manhattan
74 Warren St.


1 Comment

  1. It may come as a surprise that more people speak German than speak French.