Manhattan Charter School
MANHATTAN NY 10002 Map
Manhattan Charter School
Since opening in 2005, Manhattan Charter School has become a model elementary school that offers rigorous daily instruction in math, reading and music, plus a healthy dose of French, art, health and physical education. The small K-5 school (each grade has two classes, with at most 24 students per class) is short on space, but students and faculty appear to have ample energy and enthusiasm for learning and teaching.
“This is a school I would send my own child to,” said Genie DePolo, the school’s principal since 2007. The school’s “outstanding” teachers are “highly qualified and excellent at the art of teaching,” DePolo said, and the faculty gets ample time to plan lessons and collaborate professionally. In addition to a teacher, each classroom gets one full-time teaching assistant, all of who are “teacher wannabes” working toward master’s degrees.
During our visit, the school appeared to be running well. Students wearing their school uniforms (typically a blue polo shirt and khaki pants) were well behaved and interested in their studies. The crew of (mostly) young teachers seemed to enjoy their work. The school's Learning Environment Survey shows high rates of satisfaction among parents. Teachers also praise the high academic expectations but more than a third complained that school leaders didn't visit classrooms.
Manhattan Charter School occupies most of the third floor of a modern building shared with PS 142, a traditional neighborhood elementary. Unlike some schools that share space, Manhattan Charter and PS 142 coexist well. “We’re considerate of one another," DePolo said. Still, the shared space leaves no room for growth, so Manhattan Charter has no formal library. It also lacks an art room and computer room (DePolo recently bought iPads for the upper grades).
Manhattan Charter features a longer school year (classes start the last Monday in August) and a slightly longer school day (the day begins with an in-classroom breakfast at 7:45 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m.). At the start of each day, students are met at the front door with a handshake from the principal, and then ascend the stairs past teachers offering similar greetings.
“From the moment students walk in the door, there’s this feeling of ‘I’m important,’ ” said Hope Terroade, the school’s instructional coach. Student work is proudly displayed on classroom walls and hallways, and student concerts are a regular part of the annual calendar.
French is taught in all grades by a language instructor who visits each class to conduct lively lessons that seem to engage and motivate the students. “When children are learning a foreign language, great things happen in the brain that applies to all learning,” DePolo said.
Similarly, music instruction gets a high priority at the school. Singing and rhythm is emphasized in the early grades, but by 5th grade students might join the school’s Louisiana-style brass band featuring trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, trombone and drums.
Special education: Special-needs students get extra help as needed from specialists both inside the classroom and in separate resource rooms, a system known as Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETTS).
Admission: Younger siblings of existing students get first priority. Remaining seats are given out by lottery to students living in District 1. In 2012, the school received more than 400 applications for 44 kindergarten seats, of which 18 went to siblings. Virtually all students enter in kindergarten, but occasionally seats open in grades 1 and 2. New students are not accepted in grades 3, 4 and 5, even if space is available. (Skip Card, May 2012)