Hebrew Language Academy Charter School
Brooklyn NY 11234
Children learn Hebrew; emphasis on science; diverse staff and student body
Not near the subway
The Hebrew Language Academy Charter School (HLA), which offers daily lessons in modern Hebrew is a calm and friendly school. Perhaps surprisingly, the school is ethnically mixed and teachers, too, represent all different ethnicities and religions.
As a publicly financed charter school, HLA is a secular organization that is not affiliated with Judaism. Children do not study religion or learn Jewish prayers, but they do learn Israeli dances and songs in Hebrew. Students study the history and culture of Israel, but they also study other cultures and have a strong grounding in American history and government.
The school was founded in 2009 with the backing of Michael H. Steinhardt, a retired hedge fund manager and philanthropist who is a strong supporter of Israel and Jewish causes. His daughter, Sara Berman is the chairman of the school's board of directors.
Classrooms are cheery spaces, nicely decorated with plenty of books and supplies; elementary grade rooms have colorful rugs where children gather for lessons. In classes we visited, there were two or three adults on hand to work with children one-on-one or in small groups of students. For instance, during 4th grade math instruction, four teachers work with three classes of students who are broken up into groups by skill level. The school has two literacy specialists who work individually with children needing extra support.
Instruction is a blend of class-wide, group and independent work. Students may read and discuss books or solve math problems together. Older students may research and write on their own, but collaborate for in-depth projects such as 7th-graders working in groups to compile booklets and elaborate charts demonstrating their grasp of rational numbers.
Hebrew is taught in all grades for one period each day and, similar to math instruction, teachers divide children up into small groups so kids can learn at their own pace. For instance, students who transfer to HLA in, say, 3rd or 6th grade with no prior exposure to Hebrew dont feel behind in lessons. Instead they learn with other beginners of a similar age. Likewise, those who advance quickly are grouped with other fast learners. All other subjects are taught in English.
Spanish is taught beginning in the 7th grade.
In addition to daily science in all grades, elementary school students take a weekly STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) class, which emphasizes hands-on projects such as building and experiments. Middle school students raise trout in the science room and have a weekly lab period. All students visit the New York Hall of Science to do fun projects in their Maker Space.
Students also take art, music, and gym. Through a partnership with Playworks, middle school students are trained to help out during the elementary school recess. Theres a large stash of Rubiks Cubes on hand for students to play with during lunch.
Tucked in a way on an industrial lot, HLA is housed in a former factory building that was renovated into a sleek, contemporary facility with high ceilings, wide hallways, a gymnasium and an outdoor space for recess. It is not located near any subway lines, but there are several bus stops within a few blocks of the school.
After-school activities such as sports, chorus and chess run onsite until 4: 30 pm. The Kings Bay YM-YWHA runs extended time activities through 6 pm for a fee.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There is an ICT class on each grade. The school employs two social workers: one serving the lower and the other the upper grades.
ADMISSIONS: Priority to residents of District 22 and siblings of current students. The school accepts applications for students entering kindergarten though 6th grade. (Laura Zingmond, November 2016)