P.S. 85 Judge Charles Vallone
QUEENS NY 11105 Map
P.S. 85 Judge Charles Vallone
PS 85 has STEM Academy, the only citywide gifted program in Queens, and the school also serves general education and special needs students. “We’re unique on many levels,” said Principal Ann Gordon-Chang. “We have every type of student in our school.” In 2009 the Science, Technology, Enrichment, and Math (STEM) Academy opened with a kindergarten and 1st grade, drawing active, savvy parents who embrace this diversity.
Every child is offered the same resources, and the parent association is one combined group where money is pooled for the benefit of all. “Whatever lifts up G&T lifts up the whole school,” said a 1st-grade parent from STEM. Parents raised $10,000 during an online auction in 2011 for free after-school clubs, like painting, digital photography, and drums. Clubs are open to children in grades 1 to 5, from 3 to 5 p.m., three days a week. The other after-school program, Serious Fun, costs about $15 per day and runs until 5:45 p.m., five days a week. Parents volunteer at lunch and recess. When children can’t go outside they exercise to a program called Activity Works.
Uniforms of light blue shirts and dark blue pants are gently encouraged. Children are not overly pressured in other areas either. “No one complains about too much homework,” said another 1st-grade parent whose child is in STEM. “If you want your 1st grader doing 4th-grade math, this isn’t the place for you. Teachers are going to sing with them.” Six-year-olds learned the lyrics to the “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” in class, and a whole busload sang it while crossing the actual 59th Street bridge on a field trip.
Columbia University doctoral students were piloting iPad apps in 1st grade that teach multiplication games. Kids sat at tables in groups of four or five to take an assessment before trying the app. In the spacious library, the librarian used a SMARTboard to teach 4th graders about animal categories. The school supplements the Everyday Math program with a variety of other resources, and teachers get help from a math coach. A science lab, unusual for an elementary school, is home to fish, a turtle, a guinea pig, an albino frog, and Madagascar cockroaches.
PS 85 has an abundance of outdoor play space. There’s enough room to separate older and younger kids during recess and dismissal time, and enough for a garden, a greenhouse, and a small climbing wall. The one thing that mars the setting is the elevated tracks of the N and W train lines, which run directly along the front of the building at classroom window height. The rumble of the trains requires teachers to raise their voices or be drowned out, especially during warmer months when open windows must suffice for lack of air-conditioning.
Special Education: Two self-contained classrooms and three Integrated Co-Teaching classes. Grades change year to year as needed.
Admissions: PS 85 is a zoned neighborhood school. There is one G&T class on each grade. Families interested in the STEM program may apply only after their child scores high marks on the Department of Education’s gifted and talented tests. Students need to score at least in the 97th percentile on the G&T tests to qualify. The DOE controls admissions. Spring tours are conducted after test results are announced. In accordance with DOE transportation policy, bus service is available for Queens students living within five miles of the school. Others arrange their own transportation. STEM parents have a Facebook page (STEM @ PS 85 Q) where they share information about carpooling, tours, and more. (Lydie Raschka, May 2011)