From Naptime to Learning Time, Renovations Bring a Cozy New Energy to West 91st Street Early Learning Center

A child totally covered by a blanket naps on a mattress on the floor. A sign in the background reads How Do You Feel? and shows faces with different emotions that the children can pick to express their feelings.
Children nap at the West 91st Early Childhood Education Center
Several detailed plastic dinosaurs are lined up in a row on a sunny bookshelf
Dinosaurs ready to play

Cozy, child-sized armchairs. Soothing colors. A welcoming reception area. Our West 91st Street Early Childhood Education Center has just been renovated, and to Director Angelica Perez, the difference is palpable. 

“When the teachers came back, they said it felt peaceful and calming,” she recalled. “There’s a completely different energy in the classrooms.” 

In the entryway to the classroom there’s a mirror positioned at child level. Colorful badges with messages like “Learning makes me stronger” and “Be kind always” dot the frame. “The first thing we focus on is social-emotional learning. We put up this mirror so we can do morning affirmations every day,” Perez explained. 

Inside, tables are grouped together in a learning area. Soft rugs provide spaces for storytime and naps. Plump armchairs and loveseats with durable coverings offer a place to read or chat. Sunlight floods in through large windows across one whole side of the room.  

It’s a rebirth for the center, which was closed for nearly a year due to extensive repairs on the residential building where it’s housed. Construction noise and frequent water shutoffs made it impossible to stay open. Staff found spaces for all the children at other early learn centers—including at our Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center. Still, it was a difficult year for parents and families.  

Perez is happy to be open again—and she’s ready to start offering something new: a program for two-year-olds. Since our agreement with the city doesn’t include that age group, parents will cover the cost. “There’s no profit being made from it—we’re just going to charge what it takes to run the program,” Perez said.  

The center is also planning to offer an option to extend the length of care for three- and four-year olds. Our contract with the city only funds programming for the length of the school day, but some parents may prefer to spend extra to have care from 8 AM to 6 PM. 

While the three- and four-year-olds use the ScienceStart! Curriculum, which emphasizes observation, exploration and scientific inquiry, the two-year-olds will follow a curriculum called PlayBook that focuses on social-emotional development and learning through play. 

If you’re interested in the two-year-old or extended-day options, or our Early Childhood Education Center on W. 64th Street, please email the following address and indicate in the subject line which site you are inquiring about:

Narrow dark blue cubicles with an orange bin on their top shelf line a hallway
Cubbies provide personal space for each child’s belongings
New restrooms sparkle
A play area featuring a soft floor mat, a simple wooden house and colorful blocks
Play area
Child-sized armchairs create a cozy nook for napping or reading