Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design
Brooklyn NY 11211
Students get professional training in architectural design and preservation arts, paid internships
No elective classes
MARCH 2009 UPDATE: Gil Cornell became principal, replacing Steven Farina
APRIL 2005 REVIEW: Most city high schools offering instruction in architecture don't make it available it until students' junior year, but at the Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design, students dive into the subject as freshmen. They start off learning how to draw with tools like t-squares, and by the time they graduate, will have had mastered sophisticated computer design programs widely used by professional architects.
The school, which opened in September 2004 with just 100 9th graders, will grow to its full size of 400 students in grades 9-12 in September 2007. One of a burgeoning number of new, small high schools throughout the city, the school benefits from small classes and a well-developed "theme." The principal, Charles Pomaro, was formerly an assistant principal for engineering and technology at Brooklyn Tech, and the school's architecture teacher is a licensed architect from Pratt Institute. "That's my whole thing: the design process," said Pomaro, who added that each student is expected to leave the school with his or her own portfolio of work. "It's a way of thinking. We want students to develop the eyes of design."
Pomaro has big plans for the school, including refurbishing the shop so that students can carry out large-scale construction projects, among them building a structure in the school's yard. He says that juniors will volunteer with Habitat for Humanity to build low-income houses.
While we saw some strong teaching on our visit, we visited the school in the afternoon, and some students seemed less than completely engaged in their lessons. In a few classrooms students had their heads on their desks, and there were one or two stragglers in the hallway. But lessons had substance: in one classroom, the architecture and social studies teachers were collaborating to teach kids about the Taj Mahal in India; in a physics class, kids were learning about the differences between series and parallel circuits; and in an English class students were "translating" the dialogue in Romeo and Juliet into modern-day English.
Because the school is small, it lacks the extensive offerings available at larger high schools. There is no music instruction, for example, and students can't take a foreign language class until 10th grade. Students may, however, enroll in "Math A," and for advanced students, a class in the "Math B" curriculum is available. The school has a partnership with CUNY's New York City College of Technology, and students may use the libraries there. Two college students from Tech act as mentors in each of the school's math classes, providing teachers with an extra hand and students with extra attention.
Students who want to participate in sports may join the teams at Harry Van Arsdale, the large high school in the process of "phasing out" within which Williamsburg High School of Architecture and Design is housed. Students who need special education services likewise receive them from Harry Van Arsdale.
Students must pass through metal detectors to enter the school. Located in the heart of Williamsburg, which has developed and gentrified rapidly over the past decade, the school feels very safe, both inside and out. (Deborah Apsel, April 2005)
About the students
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Programs and Admissions
Introduction to architecture, design, engineering ,and historic architectural preservation. Students participate in paid professional internships and college portfolio review.
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Calculus, AP Environmental Science, AP Human Geography, AP Spanish
Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Handball, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Volleyball
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Cross Country, Flag Football, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Softball, Volleyball