Right Steps childcare and preschool is new in Philadelphia, but its creators Regina and John Reydler are no strangers to the business. Still, when I met them at the corner of 16th street and Locust and took a look at the mural of international landmarks stretching up the 28 foot walls of their new location’s foyer and great room, I had to think: this is their favorite child.
Not in the sense of parenting, because we parents never play favorites, but in terms of a teacher or mentor who after years of work had finally found the perfect union between their own talents and the subject in whom they could be fully developed.
It’s not just global, it’s trendy. And why shouldn’t it be, given it just opened and the Reydlers exude a kind of artistic panache?
I wanted to know more about Right Steps not because my own kids might be heading there, but because it sounded to me like an example of what’s to come both in the Philly area and in preschools and daycare centers around the country. My own kids are sorting beans and following the structured freedom created by Maria Montessori. I believe nonprofit Montessori schools will endure, but even I know it's been 141 years since Montessori was born.
What did a twenty-first century, urban, boutique childcare and preschool look like?
First, there’s the mural, which in some ways feels like a link to an artistic past. Philadelphia based artist John De Vlieger spent about ten months on scaffolding bringing the Eiffel Tower, St. Basil’s Cathedral, the Taj Mahal and hot air balloons to the lobby. That transformation was stalled, John Reydler told me, by a large and seemingly intractable bank vault that proved to be as secure as its builders probably intended.
Removing the vault was supposed to take “three to four days.” In the end, it took five weeks.
The room for older children had a SMART board, and more important, a teacher who knew how to use it, and wireless headphones for a Phonemic Awareness Program.
Students will be served four meals a day made from organic and locally grown food, (changed seasonally) and designed by Jeanie Subach, a registered dietitian and board certified sports specialist dietitian who created nutrition programs for the Penn Wood and Glen Acres Schools (in West Chester, PA for those who don’t know) and who is also the nutritionist for the Philadelphia Eagles and 76ers (professional sports teams you probably do know.)
Regina Reydler has a background in elementary education and Right Steps is positioning itself to be a place of childcare (6 weeks) through Kindergarten, with a focus on education and enrichment through art, music, and yoga. They participate in Pennsylvania’s Keystone STARS, a quality rating system for early learning programs that gives publicly available ratings of schools based on a number of factors.
Brit Munsterteiger, the admissions director at St. Peter’s School in the Society Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, about 1.4 miles from the steps of Right Steps, said a lot of parents come to her even before their kids are old enough to enroll at St. Peter’s.
“They are dual working, need the flexibility of an extended day, but are looking for an educationally based program first and daycare second. Right Steps is trying to fit that niche.”
Still, she said, “Philadelphia is not New York City in the early childhood education scene...to our benefit, it’s not the rat race feel.”
But it is a city. And one that is facing budget cutbacks and a potential change in the school district’s kindergarten program that might make the full day program a half day one. That could leave, as one article stated, 12,700 Kindergartners in need of “placement” for the rest of the day. How that affects the enrollment at a private center such as Right Steps is still to be seen.
I was also told about the individual key cards that will be used for entry into the building, and the fingerprint check-in system that saves parents’ thumbprints and monitors drop off and pick up of students.
“We offer parents the opportunity to feel good about dropping their child off at Right Steps instead of feeling guilty, because they know they (the child) will be well taken care of.”
If it takes a little locally grown organic spinach served after a yoga session conducted at the banks of an artfully painted Seine just before a session on the SMART board in the Kindergarten room in order to lessen that guilt, then the Reydlers are just the people to do it.
If anyone was feeling guilt, it was this stay-at-home mom who drove home from Philly wondering if my kids are less well taken care of because I stay home to take care of them.
But, that, as we all know, is a blog post for another day.....
Daycare expenses for dual working parents are not cheap, and "boutique" childcare and preschool is billed as an alternative to hiring a nanny. So what’s the comparison? When it comes to the finances, it’s most likely less.
M-F 7:30am -6pm for Infants: $1,668.33/month or about $83.41/day
M-F 7:30am -6pm for Pre K & K: $1,538.33/month or about $76.91/day
*based on tuition information for Right Steps I received in early May.