The 1,650 students come from all over Manhattan, parts of Brooklyn, the Bronx, Hoboken and Jersey City, and even from as far as Long Island and Western Connecticut — often because their parents already commute into the city, according to David Buckwald, the director of admissions.
Parents of Avenues children range from hedge-fund managers and entrepreneurs to tech millionaires and celebrities. Suri Cruise, the daughter of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, reportedly attended the school.
Avenues also attracts international families who are living in New York and who perhaps have multiple citizenships, Buckwald said.
Avenues operates campuses in New York City, Sao Paolo, Brazil, and Shenzhen, China.
The New York campus was the first to open in 2012, but Avenues plans to build campuses in at least 20 cities in the next decade, including Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Dubai, Hong Kong, London, Miami, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Singapore.
Students can also take online courses.
"One [of our students] is a pre-Olympic athlete, one is starring on Broadway, and they're able to take a semester leave of absence but stay enrolled in Avenues through our online campus," Buckwald said.
The median household income in New York City as a whole is $57,782.
Approximately 16% of students at Avenues receive financial aid, Buckwald told me, and the school provided more than $9 million in financial aid for the 2018-19 school year.
Avenues, I noticed, is right across the street from public housing, the Chelsea-Elliot Houses.
Avenues is a highly selective school and uses a holistic admissions process, which means they "look at many components of an application or a candidacy in context with each other and not necessarily relying on one piece more than another or looking at some kind of a formula to predict admissions decisions," David Buckwald, the director of admissions, told me.
The school does not release its admissions rate.
To apply to Avenues, prospective students and parents submit an online application and a $100 fee. The rest of the process varies by grade level.
For students in nursery, pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and first grade, Avenues conducts small playgroups to assess potential students, where they watch how students play when they're unsupervised and how they take directions.
If a student is entering Avenues in high school — grades nine through 12 — admissions conducts a conversation with the student.
For the middle grades, Avenues implements what it calls "design challenges," where a potential student is paired up with another applicant at the same level and asked to create an object from random materials provided. During this challenge, the admissions team is looking for signs of empathy, creativity, resourcefulness, collaboration, and a willingness to ask questions.
"We learn a lot about the student and if they may be a good fit here," Buckwald said.
The café is open to parents, faculty, staff, and visitors from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Parents and students pay by swiping their ID badges.
The school also has its own gift shop selling Avenues swag, which was closed at the time of my visit.
Avenues puts a heavy focus on technology.
Students in kindergarten through fifth grade are issued an iPad Air, grades 6-9 are given a MacBook Air, and grades 10-12 receive both a MacBook Air and an iPad.
Starting in sixth grade, students can take the devices home with them.
On the day of my visit, the menu included beef, California turkey, and samosa sliders with a bean mango salsa dip.
The healthy food options at the cafeteria included a salad bar, a fruit salad bar, and various fresh fruit up for grabs.
I looked at a sample Avenues lunch menu, and dishes included maple sweet potato soup, whole wheat pasta with "revved up" marinara, a miso chicken rice bowl, all-natural beef burgers with whole wheat buns, spiced sweet potato enchiladas, steamed edamame, roasted zucchini, tabbouleh salad, and organic kale salad.
Classes for the upper grades at Avenues are conducted in a seminar style, as they often are in colleges.
Students will spend one day taught completely in English and the next day immersed in Chinese or Spanish.
Avenues' goals is to have students fluent in a second language by the time they graduate.
"We try to push students out into the community for science experiments on the High Line," Buckwald told me. "And the first artwork they see beside what's in the school or on their own is right nearby in the [Chelsea] galleries. Pre-K[indergarten]ers doing gallery tours!"
Avenues students don't wear a uniform, but they do have a dress code: Students should only wear black, gray, and white.
It comes with weight machines, exercise balls, free weights, treadmills, and rowing machines.
Grades nine through 11 at Avenues can sign up for elective fitness classes that include spinning, boxing, yoga, dance, pilates, and martial arts.
I'd always imagined the main drawback of going to school in Manhattan to be the lack of outdoor space, but Avenues seems to take full advantage of nearby public spaces.
Avenues students also have access to sports facilities at nearby Chelsea Piers.
Sports offered at Avenues include soccer, girls' volleyball, cross-country, tennis, basketball, fencing, squash, track and field, baseball, lacrosse, golf, and crew.
There's also a playground on the rooftop.
The ELC & Co.Lab is home to nursery through kindergarten students on the lower floors, while the top floor is dedicated to grade 9-12 students in science, art, World Course, and English.
All the materials in the four-floor facility were sourced from producers who prioritize sustainability and environmental accountability.
The natural carpets from renewable sources perform as air filters, reducing airborne dust and allergens, according to the website.
And just inside is a multi-purpose room for other physical activities.
They recently made dumplings for the Chinese New Year, for example.
"It's a space for students to work on interdisciplinary projects collaboratively or independently," Dufour told me.
Students can drop in and work on projects both during and after class.
The "uniquely designed ceiling treatment addresses room acoustics, height, and act as a system to hang student work as well as provide optimal lighting levels," according to the website.
Dufour later told me that some students get picked up by car in the afternoon by their parents, and others by caregivers.
They sign up at the beginning of the year and are given a placard, so at the end of the school day, the teacher can read the placard and alert staff inside which child can be dismissed.
"It's just a way to simplify the dismissal process and ensure that students get home safely," Dufour told me.
Many students also take public transportation or ride private buses or buses through the NYC Office of Pupil Transportation, she said.
Avenues is too new of a school to have produced any notable alumni at this point. But I could immediately see why its curriculum, student experience, focus on foreign languages, international footprint — and of course, exclusivity — appeal to well-off, global-minded parents and students.