Guest Blogger: Pre-K Cachet?

Yes, finding the right pre-kindergarten is a thing these days. East Falls local Melissa Calder reviews schools in and around our neighborhood.

Oh c’mon! Pre-kindergarten is the new status symbol these days? For some, yeah. Schools are advertising for younger and younger “students” these days and it’s got some parents looking for the “must have” school. But mortgaging the house for Junior’s education before he’s even in elementary school might not be the best idea, especially with the many excellent options in all price ranges available in our area.

After location, the next most important factor in choosing a school is often cost, so here’s a rundown of early education offerings for parents of young children in East Falls:

Is Your Pre-K The New Status Symbol?

Since I had a child almost two years ago, I get many marketing emails about pre-K (yes, pre-kindergarten). The emails say things like “start thinking about it now” “our schools get better college degrees” “tour our school now” “the wait list is five years long.”

If you’re like me, you’ve even seen signs for local schools on neighbors’ lawns during your drive to work, while walking your baby, or out on a run. You also may have heard their advertisements on the radio. These private school pre-K options didn’t register much with me before I had my child, but I admit they’re beginning to intrigue me now.

What About Public Schools?

And it’s not just private schools pitching me. I also get emails from the state about the Pre-K for PA (Pennsylvania) petition to support the state’s advocacy for free early childcare.

With new charter schools and the struggles of the Philadelphia public school system, I wonder if the state’s program is an option for Philadelphia parents who desire a quality pre-K school, or at least a better and safer option than the Philadelphia public school system? For many families, not having good educational options can mean the difference between living in Philadelphia and moving out to the suburbs.

Finding Good Schools

I did some comparison research on pre-K’s in the areas of Mount Airy, Germantown, Chestnut Hill, Manayunk, Roxborough, East Falls, the Main Line, and near the Art Museum.

I’ve added a few interesting facts about the schools, but didn’t go into the curriculum, the outcomes, or school reputation — because it isn’t always about finding the best school, it is about finding the best for your child and your family.

As you’ll see, there are some reeeaallyy pricey schools out there and it’s a good idea not to get too hung up on a “must-have” school that could stress you out financially. It’s okay if it’s not the most expensive school and, even if it is the most expensive, it may still work for you. The point is that you should check out all the options. It could save you sticker shock down the road.

Now let’s get to the list. (By the way, all rates are based on a five day a week – full time schedule for one whole year.)

Agnes Irwin

A private all-girls school on the Main Line. 

Mission: “At Agnes Irwin, girls take chances, discover their strengths and excel across a wide variety of academic and co-curricular pursuits, all of which leads them to finding their passion.”


Pre-K tuition:  $21,900
Kindergarten:  $23,400
And up…

Bala House Montessori

Covers pre-K and kindergarten

Mission: “Bala House Montessori’s programs nurture and lead children through a physical, intellectual, and social-emotional path that is well prepared but constantly changing to meet the children’s every need and interest.”

Tuition: $15,850

There’s an admission application process.

The French International School

An interesting school which teaches in both the French and English language. Grades are pre-K through 8th

Mission: “Our goal is for our students to achieve at a high level in all academic subjects and to grow as creative individuals, critical thinkers and open-minded communicators, fluent in French and English. Nurtured by teachers who are native speakers certified in their respective countries, we expect our students to become global citizens and to develop a deeper understanding of and a true appreciation for other cultures.”

Tuition: $24,620. Yup, you read that right. Before and after school care is extra! Yikes!

Germantown Friends School

A Quaker school in Germantown that is also the school of one of our favorite guest bloggers.

Mission: “Germantown Friends School is dedicated to reaching that of God in every person. Our mission is to seek truth, challenge the intellect, honor differences, embrace the city, and nurture each student’s mind, body and spirit.”

Tuition: $21,240

Green Lane School 

Mission: “Green Lane School is proud to be serving the community since 1964. Our goal is to continually provide an excellent preschool program to our students and their families. Creativity starts here!”

Tuition: $7390 for 8:30–5:30. (Much less if you only do 8:30–2:30.)

Green Woods Charter
Green Woods is mandated to fill a minimum of 75% of open lottery seats from applicants within our local catchment area.

Mission: “The mission of Green Woods Charter School is to provide children in grades K through 8 with the opportunity to be active, knowledgeable and conscientious young investigators by fostering a keen understanding of the interrelatedness and interdependence of our local and global existence.”

Tuition: $0  (Editor’s Note: Currently Green Woods doesn’t offer pre-K, whoops. Still good to know about free educational options in our area.)

Immaculate Heart of Mary
A Catholic School in Roxborough (one of the only Catholic schools left in the area). Also seems to be the school that most St. Bridget’s students enrolled in after it closed.

Mission: “Immaculate Heart of Mary is a school that is centered in the person of Jesus Christ with Mary as our model. As a Catholic School, we are committed to educating the whole child academically, spiritually, and emotionally, recognizing the diverse and unique God-given gifts and abilities of each student.”

Tuition: (It depends on if you are a parishioner or a practicing Catholic…)

  • If you are a parishioner, one child per year is $3,660. Reduced rate with more children.
  • If you are a Catholic non-parishioner, it’s $4,200 per year and it’s reduced with more children. (You may be eligible for a discount if your parish is in close proximity.)
  • If you are non-Catholic, it’s $4,200 and goes down with more children.

Les Petits Cherubs
An East Falls school located in the Falls Center (aka Medical College of Pennsylvania, or Woman’s Medical College for you old-timers)

Mission: “We strive to provide a comprehensive curriculum to establish firm foundations in the areas of emotional, cognitive, and physical development. By offering children the opportunity to learn, grow, and accomplish in a challenging environment, we promote confidence, security, and a positive self-image for each child.”

Tuition: Approx $10,950

Little House on the Hill Daycare

A small school in Chestnut Hill

Mission:  “Our dedicated and experienced staff provide a warm, caring and secure environment for playing and learning, a home away from home.  Little house offers a wonderful and competitive preschool program as well as an exciting summer camp.”

Tuition is $160 per week for all ages.

There is a one-time application fee of $15

Miquon School

Mission: “Our program and our environment encourage wonder, inquiry, independence, and discovery. We seek to create confident, life-long learners who will move out into the wider world with strong academic and social skills, intense personal interests, a love for the arts, and a commitment to building inclusive and peaceful communities.”

Tuition: $15,480 for pre-K.

$16,750 for kindergarten and it seems to go up every year

Also a rigorous application process.

Norwood-Fontbonne Academy
A sisters of Saint Joseph School private school. Grades go up to high school.

Mission: “Committed to a strong academic program, Norwood-Fontbonne Academy offers both Montessori and creative interactive education enriched by service learning, outreach, and co-curricular experiences. Within a faith-filled community, students are challenged to become self-directed persons who live gospel values, enjoy learning, make reflective choices, and treasure themselves, others, and the Earth.”

Tuition: Pre-primary and Montessori Preschool full day: $12,300

Waldorf School

Mission: “We are a vibrant learning community where education, based on a deep understanding of the developing child, integrates the intellectual with the artistic, the practical with the beautiful — fostering the ability to engage fully in the world.”

Tuition: $12,800 = Five full days for pre-K
$13,300 for kindergarten and up

Complete and submit an application

William Penn Charter

Rigorous admissions process. The thought that my four year old could be rejected because of a “play day” may keep me from even trying. #weird

Mission: “Within a school community that honors difference, we seek that of God in each person. We value scholarship and inquiry. With excellence as our standard, we challenge students in a vigorous program of academics, arts and athletics. Through global connections, civic engagement and a focus on environmental sustainability, we inspire students to be thinkers, collaborators, innovators and leaders. We educate students to live lives that make a difference.”

Tuition: $22,900

(EFL Editor’s Note: Little-known fact — if you work at Penn Charter, you’re only responsible for 10% of the tuition. Learned this one from a greenskeeper we ran into the other day.)

BONUS! Handy Interactive Map! (You’re Welcome)

And don’t miss the charter schools link after the map.

Charter Schools Galore

There are so many charter schools to consider as well:

Here is the current charter school list provided by the school district of Philadelphia.

Check out Melissa’s contributions to, a blog that gives you the latest on the Philadelphia real estate market. And her husband James, a regular contributor to Huffington Post, is no slouch either.

About Melissa

Melissa Calder has been working in the field of media and communications within non-profit and higher education institutions for more than 10 years (here’s an interview with her in the Philadelphia Business Journal).  She has always been passionate about promoting education but even more so since she had her daughter Maisie. She has a Masters Degree in Education and has developed extensive communication plans for the small classroom audience, to local small businesses, to large museums and universities. You can find her on LinkedIn




  1. Thanks for this! I have a two year-old and so this is a pending issue in our household. How about Greene Street Friends? I didn’t realize Green Woods had preschool.

  2. I am the founder of Les Petits Cherubs and just a brief note to let you know that I appreciate you for taking the time to bring quality choices in Early Childhood education and thank you for including us in the rich choices.

    Amelia Narcisi

  3. Thanks for the information. I noticed Thomas Mifflin is not listed here. I believe they start with pre-k. Also didn’t seen Fairmount mentioning a though you reference them in the beginning … Is there a supplemental post?

    • Hi: I don’t believe Melissa has plans to write a supplemental article, but we’ll post it here if she does. Regarding Fairmount, would you be a bit more specific? I don’t see a reference to it in the article. Thanks!

    • Mifflin has a pre-k program through Head Start. This list doesn’t seem to be for the low income, unfortunately.

      • We agree, there are some pricey options in the piece. Re Mifflin, have you had any experience with their pre-k? We’d be glad to add your comments to the article. Also, have you clicked the charter school link at the end of the article (the one provided by the Philly school system)? There seem to be lots of schools listed. Perhaps the author will do a follow-up piece about more options in the area (including Mifflin).

  4. Hello All,

    It’s the author here. You have hit the nail on the head with the fact that there aren’t many options for low income families. The truth is, there just aren’t in the city of Philadelphia. I do plan on conducting more research on this topic. I have been advocating for the Pre-K for PA initiative.

    It is sad that the low income options may be good but have a poor reputation so people don’t know if they are a viable option or if they should use their entire paycheck for educating their children at a certain institution. Mifflin is part of the Public School District of Philadelphia and has a rating of 3 out of 10.

    It is frustrating that education has become inflated in price but the list above also shows that families place a lot of value on their children’s education and are lucky if they are in a position to do so.

  5. I realize it is probably difficult to get all of them but we love the Kroc Center’s Early Childhood Education Center. It is around $210 a week but they do have some financial aid options. Doesn’t Wee Care also go up through Pre-K? I know Olde City Day School is also an option and it has the free pre-K program. Granted this list was written some time ago, but perhaps it would be good to update this list and add some option that are open to all income levels.

    • Agreed, this is a dated post and not entirely exhaustive but neither Steve nor I are parents so school reviews really aren’t our bag. Thus, we were happy to accept this guest blogger’s run-down. The author hasn’t had time to update it — if you know anyone who might be interested, we’d love to re-vamp this post with new info. Thanks for chiming in!

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