Paula Hedbavny School, PS/IS 278

421 W 219TH ST
Phone: (212) 942-3440
Admissions: neighborhood school
Wheelchair accessible
Neighborhood: Washington Heights
District: 6
Grade range: 0K thru 08
Parent coordinator: ANGELIN GONZALEZ

What's special:

Small, inclusive, consistently high performing school

The downside:

Small gym; recess in the auditorium on cold weather days

The Inside Stats


Our review

PS/IS 278 has a gentle, caring atmosphere with an emphasis on traditional manners and values. Children take trips around the city, play the recorder at Carnegie Hall, and have the opportunity to learn about French culture or sing in a musical. Basic skills--such as handwriting, phonics and the conventions of grammar, are carefully woven in.

Principal Maureen Guido’s goal when she opened the school in 2004 was to promote “good citizens” who are “caring and thoughtful of others.” The school is named after a former colleague who died of cancer. Fittingly, every year the entire school community participates in a walk-a-thon around the track in Columbia’s Baker Field to raise money for pediatric cancer research.

The school consistently boasts good performance ratings. There are only two classes per grade. Children of all academic abilities are mixed but some children are grouped or pulled out for extra help or extra challenge. In 6th grade, teachers identify students who are capable of trying the harder Regent’s math track, for example.

Once a week, a school-wide enrichment program offers children a chance to mingle and be creative. During this time we saw students create backgrounds for a puppet show, practice a song for a musical and build Eiffel towers out of clay. These classes also incorporate reading and writing activities, like creating a script for the puppets, or writing the names of the layers of the rainforest.

All teachers in grades two through six have been trained in the Salvadori method, a hands-on method of teaching children about architecture using math and science. One year, students visited monuments before building monuments of their own related to their study of the Bill of Rights. Another year it was skyscrapers. “It’s project-oriented,” said Guido. “At the same time, it’s hitting all the standards.”

Teachers approach lessons in a variety of ways. We saw young children practice handwriting with close adult guidance and older children roll marbles down inclined planes in the hallway to measure velocity. In one class, children made Halloween cut-outs that looked pretty much alike; in another, they painted watercolors based on the work of Claude Monet in a variety of colors and styles. A middle school teacher led a focused Socratic circle, with students around the inner circle doing the talking, and those around the outer circle taking notes.

Depending on your point of view, some of the school’s practices may seem overformal. When the principal enters a classroom, kids stop their work, look up, and chant, “Good morning, Mrs. Guido.” Students are sorted into boys’ and girls’ lines for walking in the hallway instead of mixed like you’d see at more progressive schools. After a gentle morning rain, the principal’s impulse, on the day of our visit, was to keep children in the auditorium rather than let them face the weather–although the dean pressed for going out, and prevailed. The gym, built for elementary school students, is small for middle school students.

Parent participation has skyrocketed according to staff. Parents have been involved in creating and maintaining a website, running the spring fair and leading enrichment classes.

Students go to a range of high schools, including the Museum School, Millenium, Manhattan Village Academy, A. Philip Randolph, George Washington, LaGuardia, Lehman, Hunter, Fashion Industries, Pace, and Art and Design. More than one-third take the test for specialized high schools.

Special education: There are two self-contained classrooms, one for grades 4-5-6 and one for grades 7-8. Students are mainstreamed as much as possible for math and English language arts. They work in smaller groups for social studies and science. A range of services includes a full-time speech teacher and a part-time occupational therapist.

Admissions: Zoned neighborhood school. Parents may tour in the fall. There are over 300 applicants for about seven seats in the middle school. (Lydie Raschka, October 2012)



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