Battery Park City School
MANHATTAN NY 10001 Map
Battery Park City School
PS/IS 276 has splendid views of the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty from its Battery Park City home in New York’s first green school building. Parents, staff and students take an active role in this new community school which features strong arts programs along with an emphasis on science and the environment.
Kindergartners plant radishes and basil in a small rooftop garden. Students monitor the amount of energy generated by solar panels in the weather station. Everyone separates recyclables from garbage in clearly marked bins and a KP squad of middle-schoolers helps keep the cafeteria clean. All students get regular science lessons in nicely outfitted labs where they learn to care for fish, turtles and even fire-bellied toads.
Opened in 2009 to alleviate over-crowding in the neighborhood’s schools, PS/IS 276 is already growing faster than planned. In 2010 it enrolled an unexpected overflow of 2nd-graders from nearby overcrowded PS 234 and PS 89. The school’s growth hasn’t affected its sense of community: Principal Terri Ruyter (“Hi, I’m Terri”) knows every child by name and she, along with most teachers, goes by first names with the students.
The elementary and middle school grades are separate, with the youngest students on lower floors and the middle school on the top two. “We don’t even see the middle school,” the parent of a kindergartner told us, and the plan is to keep it that way. “There’s a feeling when you come to the 8th floor that you are in the middle school,” a teacher told us.
The school appears to do a good job of integrating children of all academic abilities and brings in extra help for students who need it. Middle school students work frequently in groups, as a team. In a math class, separate work stations might be set up with different activities of varying difficulty. “Math is all about problem-solving,” a math teacher said. “How did you get your answers?”
Students may choose the format of their social studies projects: they may write a memoir, a comic book or a song. Two boys were making a movie about Christopher Columbus. No textbooks are used in the class, only trade books and internet research, the teacher said.
The school’s gym is large enough to be used for practice by nearby high schools and there is an outdoor track and a small play area with climbing equipment. Middle school students get art twice a week, and participate in drama, chorus and woodwind and brass band. A sound-proofed music room is used exclusively by the lower school.
Students wish they could go out for lunch -- a perk that many District 2 middle schools offer - and would like to have lockers (the design didn’t permit them, says the principal). They may hang their coats and backpacks in homeroom closets but most do not. “That feels like I’m in preschool” one tall 7th grader told us. Some complain about having to climb up seven flights of stairs with heavy bookbags. (Elevators’ are mostly reserved for staff).
In a design quirk, motion sensors set off alarms at the Fire Department every time a piece of paper falls from a hall wall. The Fire Department says too much paper on the walls is a fire hazard, so unlike other elementary and middle schools, PS/IS 276’s hallways are curiously devoid of posted work except for a few bulletin boards or glass showcases.
Special education: About 10 percent of the students have IEPs. Rather than segregate them into small self-contained classes, or even into ICT team-teaching classes, smaller numbers of students with the same learning problems are grouped in a class to give them targeted help. “A student might need extra help in ELA but not in math,” said the principal. “It doesn’t make sense to give him ICT in everything.”
In anticipation of the Education Departments special education reform the school is “moving to a more community school model, taking the kids who live near your school, especially for special ed.”
After school: Manhattan Youth runs an after-school program that goes until 6 p.m. and pays for a recess counselor during the day.
Admissions: Neighborhood elementary school. Admission to 6th grade is “limited unscreened,” meaning that students who attend a school tour or open house get preference in admissions. In 2013, when the school grows to include 5th-graders, continuing elementary students will get priority. Zoning is in flux. Check the school’s website for the latest. (Pamela Wheaton, November 2011)