P.S. 309 The George E. Wibecan Preparatory Academy
Brooklyn NY 11221
Zone for the 2017-2018 school year. Call school to confirm.
Warm, welcoming school; strong performing arts and small class size
Declining enrollment, low test scores
With active parents, a friendly tone and a forward-looking administration, PS 309 is a school to watch. The Bedford-Stuyvesant Parents Committee, a group of parents who are looking to re-invigorate local neighborhood schools, has picked PS 309 as a promising place to send their children and work together to improve.
Some staff members send their own children here, and some graduates of the school have come back to teach. The school has a nice science room, performing art classes for all grades, a free onsite health clinic, and a free after-school program that also operates during school breaks.
Like a lot of schools in District 16, PS 309 has seen its enrollment decline in recent years, the result of competition from charter schools (including one in the same building) and rapidly rising rents that have forced longtime residents out. The enrollment shrank from 500 in 2006 to fewer than 300 in 2016. Its hard for teachers to get traction when children are constantly coming and going: During the 2014-15 school year, 100 students left and 50 arrived, administrators told us. Test scores are low, and rates of chronic absenteeism are higher than the citywide average.
At the same time, the school has some things going for it. Principal Nicole Perry and Assistant Principal Katrina Liebst work well together as a team and are welcoming to parents. On our visit, children looked happy and engaged in most of the classes. Most classes have fewer than 20 children.
Large pre-kindergarten classrooms have their own bathrooms and open out to a small, inviting play yard for pre-k and kindergarten only. Pre-kindergarten has lots of space for dress-up and make-believe. We saw children play at a water table and at a sand table.
Fifth-graders used laptop computers to write research papers and then have them edited by their classmates. In the first drafts we witnessed, the quality of writing varied greatly: Some had lots of punctuation and spelling errors; others were more complete reports with photos.
All ages get performing arts lessons; learning songs or plays to perform in monthly Town Halls that are led by the Student Council. A year-end performance is more elaborate: in 2016 a take-off on the "Wizard of Oz," with songs from "Grease."
The science lab is inviting and inhabited by critters such as a snake and a gecko. The majority of children stay for a free after-school program run by the Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation.
Administrators say they would like to offer more hands-on projects but feel constrained by the emphasis on children meeting the new Common Core Standards and testing well. The school uses the scripted ReadyGen reading program, recommended by the city in 2013.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There is an ICT class on most grades, including pre-kindergarten. There are also two self-contained classrooms for special needs students only.
ADMISSIONS:This is a neighborhood school, but as PS 309 is under-enrolled, there is usually room for all comers. (Pamela Wheaton & Sharon Reid, January 2016)