MANHATTAN NY 10282 Map
Principal Ronnie Najjar can remember when the tall windows in PS 89's classrooms looked out onto the Hudson River. That river view is gone, blocked by new apartment towers in growing Battery Park City, but PS 89 remains a vibrant and highly-regarded elementary school where educators carefully structure lessons to match the abilities and interests of young minds.
We joined a parent tour led by Najjar, who has been principal since the school opened in 1998. She was blunt about school admissions: If you don't live full-time in the PS 89 zone, your child is not going to attend PS 89. Even families who move into the zone after the admissions deadline get put on a waiting list. The good news: PS 89 is full but not overflowing, and it has never had to send anyone off its waiting list to another school — yet.
PS 89 is housed in a modern, comfortable building at the corner of West and Warren streets, a few blocks north of the World Trade Center. It shares the building with IS 289, which takes up the top floors. The school has an enviable cafeteria, gym, library, dance studio and science room. (A computer lab had to be sacrificed when enrollment swelled; kids now use laptops from a roving cart.) Classrooms are large, and each has a sink and ample storage.
Wide hallways are filled with student artwork (1st graders studying Picasso's blue period created striking blue portraits) or displays of class projects, such as a model suspension bridge or foot-tall dolls resembling Founding Fathers. Najjar emphasizes "project-based" education in which children "have to come together and inquire about things as a group," which also teaches children to compromise and solve problems. Children may study the same subject from several teachers: for example, a social studies lesson will be reinforced by the librarian, the art and music teachers, and even the technology instructor.
Kindergartners and 1st-graders focus on themselves and their families. Second graders branch out to learn about their community, particularly the city's parks. Third-graders study New York's structural landmarks, with a focus on historic bridges. ("They can tell you what's a trestle bridge, what's a suspension bridge," Najjar said.) Fourth grade focuses on ecosystems, while 5th-graders study U.S. history. The idea is to coordinate the curriculum with a growing mind's expanding interest in the world.
Najjar's strong opinions are also seen in what the school does NOT have. Kindergarten classes do not have aides (she said it is "not ethical" since aides work for low wages and don't get health care), does not offer gifted and talented courses (inappropriate for young ages) and does not teach foreign language. First-graders take home books, but regular homework doesn't begin until 2nd grade.
The school has an active Parent Association, and parents are invited into the school for monthly classroom visits or "Family Friday" evening events. Money raised by parents pays for a variety of enrichment programs, including ballroom dancing in the upper grades. A wide range of after-school programs and summer activities are provided at the school or a nearby community center through Manhattan Youth, a nonprofit based downtown.
Special education: The school serves children with speech, language, and developmental delays in integrated co-teaching (ICT) classes. In these, children with special needs are taught in the same class as general education pupils, with two teachers, one of whom is certified in special education.
Admissions: PS 89 is a neighborhood school and accepts 75 kindergartners each year. Since 2012, only children living in the northern portion of Battery Park City are eligible to attend. Tours are offered from December through February. Admission to the school's half-day pre-K program is by lottery. (Skip Card, February 2012)