Park Preschool is closing permanently after 31 years

The owners of The Park Preschool, one of whom founded the school here in 1989, have decided to close permanently — finding that digging out from the hole that is the pandemic “has created a situation where our survival is not viable.”

I hope to talk to them personally, but in a letter to families, owners Kevin Artale and Ellen Offen said they struggled with the decision, as anyone could guess. “This is a heartbreaking outcome for what has been more than a business to us for 30 years, and we did not come to it easily. Needless to say, it is a decision that we have worked tirelessly to prevent. We have spent countless hours researching every avenue and exploring every solution to try to reopen.”

It has been painful, sad and frustrating to watch longtime restaurants struggle, and in some cases close, as this pandemic grinds on. But when essential services — and successful businesses — like this one close permanently, it starts to feel more like the fabric of the neighborhood itself is unravelling.

Offen founded the school with two partners and has been its education director from the start. She got her master’s in early childhood ed from Hunter and also taught, but it was her goal to run a school. Artale joined the staff in 1990 as a teacher in the 2s and 3s, and later, when the two other original partners left, he became the school’s executive director. They also opened The Barclay Street School, which closed in 2016.

The school had a reputation for holding onto its staff, and you can see that in Carl Glassman’s video below, when the school held a surprise retirement party in 2018 for Emmaline Thomas-Nelson, a teacher there for 25 years. (Don’t watch it unless you want a good cry.)

“As owners of the Park Preschool, this was a decision that only Ellen and I could make,” Artale wrote to current families. “We cannot express our appreciation enough to Khris [Della Pace – their admissions director] and our staff through the years. A significant part of the pain in shutting our doors permanently is the loss of our wonderful staff.”



  1. What a sad day…Park Preschool taught all three of my children – including my oldest who is a freshman in college! We had many of the same teachers over the years and I will remember them all fondly. Such a shame….

  2. My son, who is now 33, started in the first class of 2 year olds at the Park Preschool. This is really a sad day.

  3. Such sad news! Park preschool was an amazing school with exceptional faculty and such a warm environment. Our family has so many special childhood memories from our years there.

  4. I remember when Kevin and Ellen opened up. I am amazed i can remember that far back . And just down the street from The downtown Community Center and across from PS 234, The Park Preschool was a staple in our infrastructure of raising children. They will be missed ! Not sure i will be able to walk by there without a tear in my eye. Bob Townley Founder and Executive Director Manhattan Youth

  5. So, so sad. Park PreSchool was truly a community beacon – we educated both our children there, now in their mid-20s. I remember being part of the parents association during 9/11 to rally the community behind the School’s reopening – in parents’ homes before we were allowed back onsite.

    Ellen, Kevin, Emmaline, Josie – there is a permanent glow around those names for our family. Your ministrations have raised a generation of independent, respectful, loving Tribecans.

  6. Oh, man. My son’s orientation was September 10, 2001. Whew! Less than a week after (maybe even that Friday?) they invited parents to someone’s apartment, just to be together. My kid had been at their school for two hours tops, I didn’t know anybody, and Kevin greeted me like we were best friends, hugged me, told me they were figuring it out. It was like that every day for our whole 5 years/two kids there. I know how hard they worked to keep the school open now because I saw the way they worked then, not just to get back into the building but to keep everybody together, to stay a community. Ellen and Kevin are the best. This breaks my heart.

  7. A real shame. My son didn’t go there, but I too, have walked past that cheerful little school for 20 years. Thank you to the owners, teachers and staff for all they’ve done for our kids, our neighborhood, and all the lives that they have touched…the ripple that goes beyond what we can even imagine.

  8. Ellen and Kevin were/are amazing people who truly loved my daughter Ariane and all the children. Ariane loved them and learned the meaning of sharing and caring at Park Preschool. We are sorry to see this fabulous school close. We will never forget you. Good luck with all your future work, play and life endeavors. I hope you know how much you meant to us. Susan

  9. Although there were a lot of good memories at Park Preschool, i’d be remiss not to give everyone an update as to the plight of many of us parents who paid for the full year and have yet to get a penny back from Ellen or Kevin. They both refuse to answer any of our emails or calls and took every opportunity to collect our money in full right before announcing a closure. It’s unethical and just downright disrespectful to all of our families in these hard COVID times.

    • Bart R.

      I was also a parent who Ellen and her staff insisted I make a payment a short amount days prior to announcing the permently closing the school. I felt extremely comfortable with Ellen and her staff watching my child, but their behavior on how they are handling the closing is egregious. Very poor for their legacy. I would like to get a group of other parents who are out of the tuition funds they collected and never returned. Please let me know best way to contact you.

  10. It really saddens us that we felt so taken advantage of by Ellen and Kevin. And to hear that some people were pressured to pay just prior to their closing announcement is unbelievably unethical and sleazy.

  11. Wow. You think you know someone. There are some quality people at that school and I always thought Ellen was one of them. I can’t believe they ripped everyone off.

  12. I was just looking up the school’s address to send Kevin & Ellen a copy of my new children’s book, Jackson: In School With My Special Teachers. I spent several years working as an itinerant teacher (SEIT) at Park Preschool, and in fact it was there that I began my morning on 9/11. (I just heard from the young student I was slated to work with, named Noah, who is now a college grad with a new daughter!) I will miss Park Preschool, and will always keep them and my experiences there in my heart. Wishing everyone the best on their new chapters.