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German school in White Plains looks to expand

German School New York

The German School in White Plains has been in discussions with the city about increasing its enrollment cap of 375 students to 500 students.

The German School New York, or Deutsche Schule New York, is looking to add a few good jungen. Or mädchen.

The school at 50 Partridge Road in White Plains is in discussions with the city about increasing its enrollment cap of 375 students to 500 incrementally over a five-year period.

“We keep bumping up against the cap,” Administrator Edward Schlieben said. “We are the only school between Montreal and Washington, D.C. that offers a German education. We will not be able to accommodate the needs of German families.”

The school is also interested in purchasing a five-lot subdivision at 800 North St. that would help mitigate a traffic increase from the expanded enrollment, and had plans to meet with the city’s planning board Jan. 15 to review the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the subdivision and the Special Permit Application for increased enrollment.

Elizabeth Chetney, planning commissioner for the city of White Plains, said the FEIS is being reviewed by city agencies, but could not offer a timetable since the FEIS has not been officially completed.

The school is partially funded by the German government and teaches a curriculum that could be found in schools in Berlin, Moosburg or Munich.

Students include German, Swiss and Austrian expatriates whose parents work for German corporations in the tristate area. The school also enrolls German students who live in the area and English-speaking students whose parents want them to have a German education.

Schlieben said the 375-student cap was applied arbitrarily after a spontaneous negotiation between the city zoning board of appeals and the school in 1988, as the school was expanding to have a full high school and building a gymnasium. Originally the school only had students from first to fourth grade.

No traffic studies or environmental impact studies were done before the cap was put in place.

Schlieben said that the cap places extra stress on families, as they come to the United States not knowing if there is space for their child at the school.

“When you are bringing your children over, having a school is a very critical piece,” Schlieben said. “Being put on a waiting list does not give them much assurance. These families do their planning six months in advance.”

At the German School, one-third of teachers and administrators are sent over by the German government and are fully licensed and certified in German education. The school also has teachers hired locally,and has become more bilingual, with some classes offered in English. The school is accredited and meets the standards of the New York Board of Regents.

The primary grades feature American students, whose parents feel they benefit from learning a foreign language and culture before transferring out to an English high school.

“It’s really a seamless transition,” Schlieben said. “The residual benefits of those early years can stay with you through college.”

The school offers AP classes, American history, and like many typical American schools, a field trip to Washington, D.C.

“It’s really a bicultural experience for students,” Schlieben said. “It allows everyone to feel at home.”

Schleiben said that White Plains is an ideal location for German families. Several German companies like BMW and Mercedes-Benz are located in Montvale, N.J., and there are pharmaceutical companies and Swiss banks based in Fairfield County. Parents who work in diplomacy or banking are often in Manhattan.

“It’s the one location that is 45 minutes to an hour from everywhere in all directions,” Schlieben said.

Another pre-K through 12th grade bilingual school in Westchester County, The Franco-American School of New York (FASNY), with locations in Larchmont, Scarsdale and Mamaroneck, is looking to operate at 400 Ridgeway on the site of a former golf course. Its proposal has been met with protests and an active campaign against the school, citing concerns about increased traffic.

The county is also home to a school for Japanese students, Keio Academy, in Purchase.

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