P.S. 189 The Bilingual Center
Brooklyn NY 11212
Zone for the 2017-2018 school year. Call school to confirm.
A community institution offers classes in Latin, Spanish and Creole
PS 189 has a spotless building, a cohesive staff, and an imaginative curriculum that includes Latin in the 5th and 6th grades. Staff seem to love the principal and many happily send their own children to the school. One teacher’s daughter is now teaching at PS 189 herself; a security guard sent both her children and grandchildren here.
PS 189 has inspired the loyalty of generations of families in Crown Heights while welcoming newcomers from the Caribbean, Central America, and, most recently, Yemen. Many of today’s pupils’ parents and even grandparents graduated from PS 189. Successful graduates come back on “career day” to share advice.
Also called The Bilingual Center, PS 189 offers dual language instruction in Haitian Creole and Spanish. These classes, which draw children from across the district, are designed to ensure that children can speak, read and write in both English and the other language. Many of the children speak Creole or Spanish at home; others speak English and want to learn the language of their ancestors. In the dual language classes we visited, instruction was mainly in English, with students serving as translators for children who didn’t understand. Although some instruction is offered in Creole and Spanish, the balance is not 50-50 between English and the other language.
The school also offers English-only classes, including a “gifted” class on each grade. All children study a second language, either French of Spanish; in addition, Latin is required in the 5th and 6th grade.
The stately 1922 building has an impressive auditorium, rich classroom libraries, and a large playground. Some classes are held in the “mini-school” housed on the playground. On rainy days, children play games in the cafeteria at lunchtime—they don’t watch videos in the auditorium as they do at some schools.
The tone is simultaneously formal and warm. Administrators are sticklers for attendance and punctuality. Homework is assigned every night. Younger children go to the bathroom as a group. Everyone wears blue and white uniforms. Middle school children wear blazers and neckties. At the same time, teachers are affectionate and we heard no raised voices on our tour. Classes are lively and both children and adults seem happy to be here. One downside: no pre-kindergarten is offered.
The instruction tends toward the traditional—with the teacher at the front speaking to the whole class—but there’s also plenty of time for class discussion and fun projects. In one kindergarten class, children made a timeline of important dates in history such as Columbus’ discovery of America in 1492, the landing of the Pilgrims in 1620, and the American Revolution in 1776; they also have unstructured time to play with blocks. The school has unusually rich offerings in the arts, with full-time teachers for drama, dance, instrumental music and voice.
Sixth-graders have the same teacher for all their classes; in 7th grade, they have different teachers for each subject. Accelerated courses are offered for high school credit in English, French, Spanish, Algebra I, Earth Science and Living Environment. In one lively history class, children discussed flappers and the changing role of women in the 1920s. In a math class, children learned about the use of negative numbers in ancient China and India.
Top graduates are admitted to the specialized high schools, Midwood, Medgar Evers, and Bedford Academy. Other choices include Clara Barton, It Takes a Village Academy, and Brooklyn High School of the Arts.
To compete with charter schools that offer a longer school day, PS 189 has expanded its after-school. Community organizations, including the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and Haitian Americans United for Progress, offer programs after school and during school holidays.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers team-teaching plus two self-contained special education classes.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. Dual language programs are open district-wide. For middle school there are some seats for children from outside the zone. Call the school for information about admission to the gifted program, which is administered by the school rather than the district. The school sometimes has room for children from District 23, whose border is just one block away. (Clara Hemphill, April 2017)