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Students at PS 24 are taught tolerance, self-expression, and empathy, as well as academics. Principal Christina Fuentes believes in the importance of community, family ties and in teaching the “whole child,” and PS 24 is an embodiment of those beliefs.
The school is welcoming to a diverse array of families. The brilliant colored murals on the walls depict the trials and triumphs of immigrant life. Inside the sounds of English and Spanish intermingle as parents and children pour in at the start of school. Most of the students are taught in dual language classes, in which they learn in English and Spanish on alternating days.
The “whole child” approach is nurtured through a program with Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility, called the 4Rs (reading, writing, respect, and resolution). Lessons are often followed with time for the students to discuss among themselves what they have learned. Children are praised for working out problems in original ways. As part of the 4Rs program, kindergartners trace the shape of their hands, opening a discussion about diversity. Diversity panels, composed of older students, visit classrooms to speak of their experiences. Their young audiences gain understanding and empathy and in return offer up encouragement.
PS 24 has a strong arts curriculum. Every year, each class creates and performs its own musical based on topics covered in the curriculum. For example, one class play was about insects. Students work on all facets of the production, including writing the lyrics, musical score, and script. The school collaborates with Brooklyn Arts Exchange for theater and movement, and the Manhattan New Music Project, which sends musicians to the school. The school has become crowded, but recess is held in a spacious play yard every day.
The school makes an effort to act as a gathering place for families. There are Spanish Literacy classes for parents, so they can earn their GED in Spanish, and free English as a Second Language classes. Parents can also become Certified Learning Leaders, trained by the Learning Leaders Organization, and help out in the classroom. The PTA is active, if small, and organizes special school occasions like Family Game Night, where parents and kids play board games in the cafeteria.
PS 24 also has a medical clinic, an on-site dental clinic, two full-time social workers, and outpatient mental health services.
After school: Guided reading is offered four times a week. Supplemental Educational Services are available. There are free after-school programs, which include Library Club, Sports Explorers, cooking, gardening, and LEGO robotics. From January through May, the school offers a Saturday Test Prep Academy in math and English for the state tests.
Special education: PS 24 has two self-contained classes, six ICT classes, both a bilingual and monolingual SETS teacher, a physical and occupational therapist, and bilingual and English speech teachers. The building has two elevators and is barrier free.
Admissions: Neighborhood school. (Eliana Mascio, March 2012)