J.H.S. 104 Simon Baruch
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Lively school with lots of sports, drama and art
MS 104 is a lively neighborhood middle school with strong academics and lots of sports, drama, and art—including ceramics. Open to everyone who lives in the zone, the school serves a wide range of students, including high-achievers, new immigrants just learning English and children with significant disabilities.
Children may play an instrument, practice yoga, sing in a school musical, write for the student newspaper, or learn to fence. Students may make their own “mummies” in a class on ancient Egypt, create “skyscrapers” from plastic straws in a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) class, or write persuasive essays about gun control or freedom of speech in English class.
Principal Rocco Macri says he works hard to make the school “a place where teachers want to work and where kids want to learn.” Teachers have the flexibility to decide what class trips students take—and children may go to Broadway shows and the Metropolitan Opera, for free. Students sometimes have the freedom to choose what books they want to read.
“The teachers and staff genuinely care how the kids are doing, not just academically but socially,” PTA president Jessa Schwartz said. “If there is an issue, they deal with it with kindness, respect and understanding.”
To make the large school seem smaller, the school is divided into "houses" of four classes and four teachers who work as a team. Students stay in their house for most of their classes, cutting down on the time needed to travel between classes. Teachers have a regularly scheduled time to meet, so they may plan curriculum together as a team, or discuss individual students' issues. Each grade has its own assistant principal and guidance counselor who follow children during their three years at the school.
The school has “special progress” or honors classes, which make up more than half the student body, and “academic” or general education classes. There is some movement between the two programs: Students who start in one may move to the other depending on their progress. All 8th graders, not just those in “special progress,” have the opportunity to take Regents-level math and science, classes typically offered in 9th grade.
The building is brightly lit and well-kept. One drawback: there are no lockers. Students keep their coats and books in wooden coat closets in their homerooms.
While some teachers responding to school surveys complain about problems with order and discipline, the school seemed unusually calm during our visit. Schwartz said some students complain about online bullying, but she was unaware of any problems with safety during the school day.
Special education: The school has self-contained special education classes, as well as team teaching classes that mix special needs and general education students and have two teachers, one of whom is certified in special education.
Admissions: The school offers tours for prospective students and parents in the fall.Students who live in the zone are guaranteed a seat. Students who live outside the zone, but within District 2, may apply through the school choice process. (Clara Hemphill, March 2019)Read more