Embraces kids with special needs to the benefit of all children
Too many kids are chronically absent
PS 396 has developed a reputation for its can-do spirit in assisting children with special needs in ways that benefit all kids. Principal Nicole Tine, who took over in 2010, has continued the good work started by her predecessor Lawrence Wright, who embraced kids with special needs. Enrollment is on the rise and test scores are improving for all kids.
PS 396 is home to an ASD NEST program, which features inclusion classes for high functioning children with autism spectrum disorders. Dorothy Siegel, project director of the ASD NEST support team, called PS 396 "a very good school serving a very poor neighborhood that includes a homeless shelter." Classes are small and taught by two trained teachers working together with a large support staff of occupational, physical and speech therapists as well as music, art and gym teachers. Kindergarten combines four ASD children and eight typically developing children. The ratio changes as the children mature, reaching a 4-to-16 ratio in grades 4 and 5.
To assist ELLs (English language learners), the school hosts Family ESL (English as a Second Language) classes and Saturday family workshops with Language in Play, a language-based theater program. The school hosts student teachers from Hunter, NYU, Teacher's College, and Bank Street College, meaning kids have the benefit of an extra adult to help out in class.
Teachers are supported, too. A social studies teacher works with classroom teachers on each grade to help them infuse more reading and writing into their lessons. All new teachers are paired with a mentor who has had special training in how to be a mentor.
Movement is a priority at PS 396: every morning, all children move to music for three minutes. After lunch some teachers lead yoga exercises to help kids focus, according to an article in the United Federation of Teachers newsletter.
The school is housed in a sprawling complex consisting of a main building constructed in 1938, a modern addition with curved walls built in the 1980s, and an earlier annex built in 1922. It shares the complex with a middle school, MS 390.
Admissions: Neighborhood school (Lydie Raschka, school data, August 2014)
About the students
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Bronx NY 10453