On Saturday, October 15, Manhattan Country School held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of its new building at 150 West 85th Street. Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal joined MCS Director Michèle Solá, MCS Board Chair Michael Patterson and ABA Studio Principal Andrew Bartle in leading this milestone event.
MCS’ move to the Upper West Side comes as the school marks its 50th anniversary and begins its sixth decade as a leader in progressive education and diversity.
“There couldn't be a more important time,” said Solá. “We're reading more and more research about how schools like this are hard to find and hard to build. We owe great debt to our founders who had the boldness and the audacity to start a school in the first place and the board of trustees and all the people who made this transition possible.”
Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, who has been engaged in conversations about school rezoning on the Upper West Side, echoed the importance of diversity in her remarks. “We are so glad and so proud to have you here…. I feel so passionately about a school that's founded on the principles of Martin Luther King…. It is so important for you to be here right now.”
MCS purchased the West 85th Street building from Mannes College The New School for Music in January 2015. The first phase of construction began shortly after, with a focus on transforming tiny practice rooms into classrooms for young children. A centerpiece of the work is the 533-square-foot, four-story courtyard designed to provide light and air to interior areas of the building and serve as a community gathering space. In addition, a large concert hall has been modified to function as both a gym and an assembly space, a feature the school didn’t have in its previous home. While the renovation of the upper floors that house classrooms, the library, the art room and science lab resulted in a clean, modern aesthetic, the original architecture of the first two floors has been maintained. A grand marble staircase in the entry, similar to the one in the school’s former location on East 96th Street, offers an element of the familiar for staff, students and their families.
At more than double the square footage of the school’s previous home, the West 85th Street building supports the school’s plan to gradually grow enrollment from 200 students to 400 hundred between now and 2020. When all three phases of construction are complete, the building will have 44,000 square feet, two classrooms for every grade from pre-K to eighth and improved facilities for a growing academic program that places a strong emphasis on social justice, activism and sustainability.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony kicked off Farm Festival, the school’s annual fall fundraiser run by MCS parent volunteers. The event, which draws hundreds of New Yorkers each year, features rides, games, arts and crafts, savory food, live music, a raffle and an online auction. Proceeds support the school’s sliding-scale tuition model, which underwrites the broad racial and socioeconomic diversity of the school community.