P.S. 33 Chelsea Prep
MANHATTAN NY 10001 Map
P.S. 33 Chelsea Prep
Chelsea Prep is a vibrant place with a strong collaborative spirit and a wide range of activities to engage children—including art, dance, drama and Mandarin Chinese. Once shunned by middle class parents or anyone with a choice, Chelsea Prep has made a heroic turn-around and is now on a par with other sought-after school in District 2.
The surrounding neighborhood has both housing projects and townhouses, and, while many children at PS 33 are very poor, we met one mother who transferred her child to PS 33 from a private school. Attendance and test scores are above average, even though the school also has a higher-than-average number of students who qualify for free lunch.
Picasso, Klee, and Kandinsky-inspired art decorate the walls. Academics are infused with art, dance, music, and technology, and college is a focus from the start. Parents serve on committees, write grants, and bring their own expertise into the classroom.
Principal Linore Lindy, principal since 2004, is a former restaurant owner who has held positions as a literacy coordinator, a teacher, and an assistant principal. A parent of three children who benefited from gifted classrooms, Lindy uses the Renzulli Schoolwide Enrichment Model, which engages students in independent studies. She believes in empowering staff, parents, and especially children, by encouraging their interests, skills, and curiosities. “When it comes from the child there’s no limit,” she explained. We saw a project in which 2nd graders interacted online with a parent traveling on Route 66. “What jobs do they have in Texas?” one child had asked. The parent sent back a video clip of a local making a cowboy hat. Following a field trip to see the American Museum of Natural History’s brain exhibit, a kindergarten parent (and neuroscientist), brought in a tiny mouse brain for further observation.
The school offers three kinds of dance, chess, chorus, drama, Mandarin Chinese, karate, instrumental music, robotics, and more. Supplemental programs are funded partly through grants written by Lindy, parents, and staff, who work long hours to make it happen. We saw girls and a handful of boys practice ballet on the auditorium stage (the sapphire curtains, ceiling fans, and sound system all grant funded). Chelsea Prep 3rd-graders were selected by Disney to produce Aladdin with teaching artists from Broadway shows. (The pilot program was filmed by Disney to showcase their new public school arts initiative.)
Parents praised the child-centered nature of the school, whether it’s the sensitive way teachers explain a faltering nuclear reactor in Japan to young children, or the thoughtful integration of technology at every age, from giving PowerPoint presentations in 1st grade to creating podcasts in 5th. We saw two kindergartners use a large, touch-sensitive interactive computer screen while classmates engaged in dress-up, block building, reading, and writing, in other areas of the room.
Both the school and parents have initiated numerous collaborations with the community. On the day of our visit a group of parents sat at a large table in the principal’s office, planning a grant-funded “Garden of Inspiration,” which would be helped along by local businesses. Lindy let parents take the lead at the meeting, supporting their efforts in a low-key way. We met a psychiatry resident and a supervisor from New York University making one of their twice-weekly visits to work individually with children with social-emotional issues at no cost to the family. “We're a conduit” for that support, Lindy said.
Lindy values energy and education in her teachers and to this end has hired a former greeter from Disney World, a Rhodes Scholar, and a higher percentage of seasoned teachers with master’s degrees than other area schools. Teachers “loop” backward and teach younger grades, bringing children their knowledge of what’s ahead. “It raises the benchmark,” Lindy said. A teacher showed us a book her class had published
In preparation for an annual “college fair,” pre-Kindergartners learn facts about dormitory life (e.g., you have a roommate, and you don’t have to ask to go to the bathroom). One year after the fair, kindergartners spontaneously built a college out of blocks. As kids get older, words like “graduate,” “financial aid,” “scholarship,” and “mascot” are introduced, and each child is encouraged to think about a course of study. “I want to study art,” wrote a 2nd-grader. Friday afternoon “college-prep” classes are designed based on subject areas teachers loved most in college: psychology, Greek mythology, genetics, ornithology, sports medicine, and Spanish. Teacher interests are encouraged in other ways too; one sports-obsessed teacher invited a former New York Knicks player to visit her classroom.
The school has gifted and talented classes in the early grades, with the goal of adding a new grade each year.
Special Education: There are three classrooms with 12 students, a teacher, and an aide; two are bilingual (Spanish-English), and one is monolingual (English). One 2nd grade has a mix of special and general education students with two teachers, one trained in special education. Other children are assisted by a special education teacher who visits their classrooms to offer the extra help they need.
Admissions: Neighborhood-zoned school. (Lydie Raschka, March 2011)