Curtis High School
STATEN ISLAND NY 10301 Map
Curtis High School
In a century-old building on grounds with lawns and tall trees, Curtis High School draws a wide mix of Staten Islanders to its varied offerings. From rigorous academics to top-notch arts education and city-champion sports, the school is thriving, complicated, crowded, and lively. The school is divided into 10 "houses," which allow Curtis' 2,600 students to find niches, yet take advantage of school-wide offerings typical of a large, urban school, such as teams, clubs, and student publications.
All students take comparable basic academics, but may focus on computer science and technology, journalism, or performing and visual arts in programs that do not have auditions or minimum academic requirements. Other programs, including an International Baccalaureate/honors program, an international study program (that often includes overseas travel), and a nursing program, all accept students based on academic records and test scores. Curtis’ (Navy) Junior Officer Reserve Training Corps program enrolls about 60 students a year. Many seniors have a shortened day, having completed their graduation requirements.
Many faculty and staff are Curtis graduates. One guidance counselor we spoke with estimated that 40 percent of the adults working at the school were once Curtis students. Curtis’ popular principal, Aurelia Curtis, continues to teach, working daily with some of the school’s most at-risk students, and is a strong, dynamic leader, according to teachers at the school. Sports are “huge” in the school’s culture – of the school’s 2,600 students, over 1,500 are involved in sports teams.
With numerous musical groups, from guitar ensembles to jazz and symphonic bands, dance companies, and more, the school extends ample opportunities to motivated students. There are 16 Advanced Placement classes and a challenging International Baccalaureate program, which leads to a diploma recognized by many colleges and universities around the world provide a breadth of academic challenge. At the same time, most students arrive performing below grade level and the majority of graduates still need some remedial classes in college, according to CUNY standards.
There are some self-contained classes, but special-needs students are most often mainstreamed into general education classes.
Demand for the school is strong, guidance counselors say, and the building is crowded, at 130% of its official capacity. To help improve the flow of students in the building, the school staggers the time that students begin and end their school days.
Safety concerns at the school surface with regularity, including a 2011 incident that involved a conflict that began off-campus and included a student carrying a knife into the school building -- there are no permanent metal detectors. A minority of students come from challenging domestic circumstances, guidance counselors say – their life at school may be the most stable and predictable element in their complicated lives. Discipline at school is benevolent but instant: conflicts and fights are stopped “within 30 seconds,” a guidance counselor said, and “nothing lingers. We’re a family.”
Admissions: Interested students should apply by program on the high school application, ranking their most desired "houses" higher on the list. The nursing, International Baccalaureate, and School for International Service programs are selective, with admissions based on academic record, attendance, and standardized test scores.
This school is included in New York City's Best Public High Schools. (Helen Zelon, October 2006, updated October 2011)