P.S. 212 Midtown West
MANHATTAN NY 10036 Map
P.S. 212 Midtown West
Located on the edge of the theater district, Midtown West is a small and welcoming school that attracts students from across District 2. It has a neighborhood feel, even thought fewer than half the children live within walking distance. The school has a significant number of male teachers and teachers of color. Gay parents, interracial families and families formed through adoption feel comfortable here, and the school has a good racial mix.
Parents are welcomed in the classrooms and at the cozy Family Center, where the busy PTA, which creatively raised more than $200,000 last year, has its headquarters. Every child receives a full set of school supplies each fall as well as five free books for summer reading courtesy of the PTA. Many parents participate in a “Book Club,” reading current and classic children’s literature, followed by workshops on what to do at home to foster a love of reading. Families are strongly encouraged to volunteer a few hours a month; those who cannot may feel left out.
The school has benefited from strong and thoughtful leadership. Principal Dean Ketchum, who had been a middle school math teacher in the south and was previously assistant principal at PS 217 on Roosevelt Island, took the helm in 2005. [Ketchum left the school in 2013 to become principal of the Hunter College Elementary School. His replacement is Ryan Bourke, formerly an assistant principal at PS 321 in Park Slope.] Ketchum noted that the number of applications for kindergarten has risen steadily. and now far outpaces the number of available seats. There are 28 children in each kindergarten class with one teacher.
The curriculum remains progressive, with continued close ties to Bank Street College of Education. Reading, writing and math are now supplemented with some more traditional approaches. The school uses the standard TERC Investigations curriculum for math, but is “not holding back on traditional algorithms,” says Ketchum.
Classes are “looped,” so that children spend two years with the same teacher. On the day of our visit, students seemed highly engaged and transitioned calmly between activities in the well-worn but well-organized classrooms, which have high ceilings and are painted in pale blue and purple hues. Smartboards are coming soon.
Kindergartners visit one another’s homes, then write and illustrate books about the visits and chart home locations on a map. First graders study theater; Stephen Sondheim has visited four times. During reading workshop, a second grader discussed the shades of meaning of the word, “palatable.” Third graders are taught cursive. Fourth and fifth graders are expected to use proper grammar and spelling. Studio in a School art workshops are provided with a grant from the Ford Foundation, and a well-equipped, modern music room features rows of keyboards that resemble a gym’s spin class. Students in all grades get daily snacks, First through fifth graders have mixed-age clubs every Wednesday (such as chess and cooking), and everyone looks forward to Popcorn Fridays. There is a privately-run afterschool program in the building until 6 p.m.
Special Education: There are two self-contained classrooms to which children are assigned by the central office of student placement. Occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy are offered, as well as Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETTS).
Admissions: Children who live in District 2 are eligible to apply. There are far more applicants than seats available. Parents must tour the school in the fall and fill out an application for their child to be considered. (Amanda Hass, February 2011)