QUITE a few Economist journalists have children in private schools, and whenever I write about the astronomical fees they read my articles with keen interest. More than one has asked me, hopefully and with a certain Schadenfreude, whether the global recession means that schools finally have to start cutting their fees? In London, that’s doubtful; I want to find out whether Manhattan is any different.
One reason fees in both places have been so high is limited supply: opening a new school in either of these crowded, pricey cities is difficult. So my first stop is Claremont Prep, one of the rare ones that has managed it. It opened just five years ago, in an old Bank of America building just off Wall Street. P.D. Cagliastro, the school’s flack, shows me around.
It cost $28m just to open the doors, Ms Cagliastro tells me, and another $7m has been spent since–and I can easily believe it. The former banking hall, its murals carefully restored, is now a grand auditorium; in the student cafeteria the old vault door is still visible, protected behind glass. There is an indoor swimming pool, and a basketball court on the 9th floor. The rooftop garden is surreal–an adventure playground on Astroturf, surrounded by skyscrapers and overlooked by the New York Stock Exchange.