P.S. 199 Jessie Isador Straus
MANHATTAN NY 10023 Map
P.S. 199 Jessie Isador Straus
A unified staff with a shared vision of education, an active parent organization and an emphasis on inclusion make PS 199 one of the most sought-after schools in the district. The school is known for its sensitive mingling of special needs and general education students. "We do as much mainstreaming as we can," said Principal Katy Rosen, who taught at the school beginning in 1992 and was assistant principal before becoming principal.
The school boasts big, bright classrooms, a gym with soaring windows, a music room, a wheelchair-accessible playground, two art rooms and a well-equipped library. On our visit the 2nd-grade chorus practiced in the auditorium, accompanied on piano by the music teacher, a Manhattan School of Music–trained musician whose daughter was a PS 199 student.
Parents are firm advocates for the school. On our visit one parent worked out a backup plan with an office staff member to avoid "wheelchairs waiting in the cold," which occurred apparently due to an aide's absence. "I enjoy coming in because I get to see what my child's doing, and I learn how to help him," said another, Kwee Huang, hanging art in a hallway display case.
Teachers have ongoing support from a literacy coach, and results were evident in the depth and volume of student writing. Posted outside a 4th-grade classroom were typed essays on self-selected topics like "Letting Your Child Walk to School by Himself." The philosophy at PS 199 is that children learn best in mixed-ability groups where peers can share knowledge. "Realistic fiction is things that can happen, but it's not real," said a 2nd-grade girl. "Is Voldemort real?" the boy sitting next to her asked. "No," she replied.
The Everyday Math curriculum incorporates math games and paper-and-pencil work. Teachers use hands-on science kits in the younger classrooms. Third and 4th graders are taught by a science teacher. A chef visits on Cafe Day to allow children to sample specialties like Asian salad or pasta Bolognese.
The school has partnerships with several arts organizations, including the New York Philharmonic, Vital Theatre, Lincoln Center Institute and National Dance Institute, whose teaching artists work with each of the 4th-grade classes once a week. A "Special Forces" class combines general education pupils with special needs students, including some in wheelchairs, in a dance collaboration.
In a 2nd-grade classroom a chart, called a "work behavior guide," had clothespins with children's names clipped to one of three possible words, "Wow," "So-So," and "Whoops," to keep kids on track. Between classes, children walked in calm but not silent lines. When one student shushed a peer in the hallway, a teacher asked, "Can you think of another way to ask someone to be quiet?"
The staff is learning to incorporate a wealth of new technology from SMARTboards to Flip video cameras. Students present group science projects using document cameras-overhead projectors that do not require transparencies-and use laptops in media class to make graphs, practice typing skills and supplement classroom work.
Special Education: One of the city's first barrier-free schools, PS 199 has a legacy of serving students with physical challenges. Students with all types of disabilities, depending on the level of support they need, are enrolled in either the general or special education classrooms.
Admission: Neighborhood school. (Lydie Raschka, January 2011)