To the Editors:
One hundred twenty children who have gained the survival skills (reading, writing and arithmetic) from a creative and innovative learning environment—Children’s Community Workshop School—will lose it because Children’s Community Workshop School does not have enough money to stay alive.
Our school was started in September, 1968, by a group of parents who were discontent with the public schools on issues of integration and quality education and who were motivated by a firm commitment to respect what each child brought to the learning situation.
We are a parent-controlled, open-enrollment, tuition-free, tax-exempt, community elementary school, located in a brownstone on the midwest side of Manhattan. We serve a heterogeneous population of one-third black, one-third white, and one-third Hispanic, with others mixed in across the board. These proportions reflect the mix in our community. We have an enrollment of 120 children, ages 5-13. Within the ethnic categories, these children are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis without testing or ability grouping.
Many people, particularly black and Hispanic, who are discontented with the public schools or feel these schools fail their children, are prevented by lack of money from opting for alternative educational environments. Our tuition-free principle allows children of all racial and ethnic backgrounds to attend irrespective of their ability to pay. We provide a truly public school, but one quite different from those in the New York City system.
The primary and central concern of the Children’s Community Workshop is the needs and interests of its children. We believe very strongly that children can best learn in an environment in which the opportunity to make real decisions exists. Too often schools espouse children’s freedom to learn but deny them the essential freedom to choose among alternatives, even where that involves making mistakes and learning from the mistakes.
We have a budget of $200,000 and we have raised approximately $60,000 of that budget. We are operating on base minimums and we still cannot meet that. We need $2,500 per week until the end of the year to meet this minimum.
We are the first community school to be endorsed by a local school board to receive public funds for the 1972-73 school year.
The Children’s Community Workshop School needs to stay open to realize the fruits of four years of torment and sacrifice in charting a new course in public education.
We suffered some loss of staff and some loss in enrollment because of the lack of funds. We are faced with total loss of staff and children should we fail to raise enough funds to keep the school open.
We hope New York Review readers will act on their interest in public education for those who cannot afford any other options.
Children’s Community Workshop School
55 West 88th Street
New York City 10024
June 1, 1972