P.S. 64 Robert Simon
Manhattan NY 10009
Good communication between children and adults.
Limited space in shared building; PTA room and parent coordinator's office are hidden away.
At P.S. 64, a small school on Avenue B that mostly serves children of local Latino families, dedicated teachers effectively draw out children with group discussions and help them learn to express themselves with ease. Administrators are working to turn P.S. 64 into an arts-focused school.
Building and location: Housed in a large, red brick building that has vibrant murals flanking the entrance, PS 64 is one of three small schools sharing the building; the Earth School, an alternative school popular with East Village parents, and the Tompkins Square Middle School are the others. Unlike the Earth School which draws its students from all over District 1 and even Brooklyn, PS 64 serves mostly local Latino residents of Alphabet City. Facilities such as the gym and cafeteria are shared by all three schools. Space is limited so even rooms in the labyrinthic basement are used for classes, including a rubber-matted play area for younger children that's used in addition to a gym. However, administrators at the schools say that they collaborate well with each other to ensure all the students in the building have what they need, and the building is well-maintained.
Student art work is displayed prominently throughout the hallways. According to Principal Marlon Hosang, parents and students have expressed interest in adding more performing arts and visual arts instruction. Hosang, who was assistant principal for six years prior to becoming principal in 2008, would like to see P.S. 64 become an arts-themed school. At the time of our visit, he moved the art classroom into a larger and less structured space in the basement, and he anticipates turning the space into a real art studio with enough room to house bigger student projects.
School environment and culture: P.S. 64 serves many children from low-income families, enough so that the school provides free lunch to every student. The majority of students come from Spanish-speaking families and bilingual staffers are able to communicate with many of the immigrant parents who are not fluent in English.
Children seem at ease speaking up during lessons, asking for or offering help, and interacting with teachers and other adults. In most classes, teachers are successful in engaging them in conversations, and in general, children were quite chatty. In response, one long-time teacher said that kids talk so much because, "We listen to them."
Teaching and curriculum: During our visit, we saw kindergartners gathered on a rug practicing phonetic sounds, and 3rd graders beginning a study on writing mysteries, following a curriculum designed by Teachers College. The school opted for the TERC curriculum, also used in nearby District 2 schools, over the city's preferred Everyday Math. Hosang said teachers chose the TERC curriculum because it offered an emphasis on "having students explore various means to problem solve."
Fifth graders in a Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT) class studying data gathering and graphing participated in a class discussion, and we saw students listen to and comment thoughtfully on each others ideas when asked to recommend types of graphs to effectively represent a set of data on the blackboard. In another class, a 2nd grader working on word problems aimed at reinforcing arithmetic skills was clutching a big laminated table of numbers and waiting eagerly but patiently for the teacher as classmates offered help with their own explanations.
The school has a technology teacher and its Mac computer lab will be getting new computers, according to Hosang. In the new art studio, the art teacher talked about introducing chalk pastels to 3rd graders and 5th graders, who are working on figure drawing and silk screening t-shirts. Classes have art 2-3 times a week.
Family participation: According to both Hosang and Parent Coordinator Gladys Concepcion, whose child graduated from P.S. 64 in 2005, there has been better communication between teachers and parents in the past few years. Hosang said that he has a supportive PTA and, even when parents don't hang around the school, they e-mail him to keep on top of their child's education. We met several mothers preparing Easter candy treats for students in the PTA room, located along a dimly-lit and winding hallway in the basement. It seemed to us that more parents would be induced to volunteer if the PTA room and the parent coordinator's office were not so far away from the school's entrance.
Partnerships and programs: Students take ballroom dancing classes taught by American Ballroom Theater instructors and put on shows with the help of Rosie's Broadway Kids. A state-funded clinic at the school is staffed with a nurse practitioner who can provide free physical exams, medical attention, and drug prescriptions to students.
After school: Educational Alliance, which also offers a Head Start preschool program, provides a free daily after school program at the school. Three other organizations also provide free programs offsite and arrange to pick up participants at the school. All programs end at 5:30 p.m.
Special education: The school has a couple of self-contained classes, and CTT classes on most grades.
English Language Learners: Although many children come from Spanish-speaking families, the school has only a small group of students who qualify for services; one ESL teacher works with them.
Admissions: Priority is given to District 1 residents. (Catherine Man, March 2009, updated 2012)