Clifton Park private school fills niche in district

Even playtime at St. George’s Elementary School is educational.

Even playtime at St. George’s Elementary School is educational.

After they’ve finished their lessons for the day at the church school on Route 146, students can build with blocks, make pictures out of colored tiles, play with magnets or sort glass pebbles by color and size.

“You can make a bracelet,” said Sydney, a kindergartner, holding up stuck-together magnets encircling her small wrist.

One of her classmates experimentally tried to pick up a wayward green glass jewel with a magnet, which stayed put on the carpet.

“The gem doesn’t work,” she pronounced.

It’s a science lesson, learned by accident in a few seconds.

The Episcopal elementary school at St. George’s Church opened in the fall, adding to its established preschool with a day-long class for kindergartners and first-graders.

Fourteen children are enrolled this year in the single, mixed-age class, almost all kindergartners.

Almost half plan to return next year as first-graders, and eight new students have enrolled so far as well, said head teacher Sheray Tario, a 2010 Skidmore College graduate.

Tario teaches the small class with assistant teacher Melinda Palmer and aide Linda DePoy.

The curriculum is not overtly religious, but the school emphasizes “Christian values” and students say a prayer together at the end of the day.

People of all faiths are welcome in Episcopal schools, which emphasize critical thinking, informed skepticism and thoughtful empathy, said Phyllis Aldrich, the school’s secretary pro-tem, whom the Rev. John Henry II, the rector of St. George’s, enlisted to study starting a school and set it up.

Aldrich is retired from BOCES as head of the gifted program and started the Young Scholars program here.

“There seemed to be a need, particularly in this district, where Shen is still half-day kindergarten,” Aldrich said of St. George’s Elementary.

Even with the Mother Teresa Academy and the Saratoga Academy for the Arts and Sciences both in Clifton Park, there seemed to be room for another, slightly different, private elementary school. The church plans to add one grade a year and grow slowly.

Annual tuition is $6,000.

“That’s a lot of money for people. I don’t know what the market will bear,” Aldrich admitted.

Some students stay for more instruction after-school, including enrichment classes in Mandarin Chinese, sign language, building LEGO robots and yoga. Aldrich wants to start a gardening program in the spring.

On Thursday afternoon, three students “rocked out” while signing the alphabet with instructor Amy Esposito, dancing and singing by the end.

Tario, an energetic and assertive teacher, prefers the small private school to the public schools she saw in college.

“I have a lot more freedom,” she said. “I don’t know if I could feel like I could do my job and do it right if I were in public school.”

The school has a curriculum, but she can deviate from it to focus on something she thinks is important. On Thursday, she made paper with the youngsters as part of a lesson on Egypt, having the students shred paper, mix it with water and spread out the pulp to dry into new sheets.

“There’s so many things right there that they’re learning,” she said.

Students can study and go on nature walks in the four acres behind the church, Aldrich said: “Our feeling is they’ve got to experience and get outside.”

Staff also pay special attention to each child’s level.

“We teach the child, not the grade,” Aldrich said. In the current class, at least one child is reading chapter books. Others are learning phonics and still others are studying vowels.

They all come together for a writing workshop, where they read stories they’ve written.

To enroll in St. George’s Elementary School or for more information, call 371-6351 or visit

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply