PS 151 Yorkville Community School
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Strong leadership and lots of parent involvement
Cramped gym, cafeteria doubles as auditorium
PS 151 Yorkville Community School is a warm school with strong leadership, a cohesive staff, and lots of parent involvement. In a city thats divided by race and class, the school has a healthy mix of children who live in luxury high-rise buildings, expensive brownstones, modest five-floor walk-ups and public housing.
The vibe throughout the school is cheery and laid-back. Parents pick kindergartners up from their classrooms, easing the transition to big-kid school. Students address teachers and staff by their first names. (The principal is called Miss Samantha.) Large classrooms with high ceilings in the 100-year-old building are arranged so kids have lots of opportunities to move around. There are colorful rugs for class-wide gatherings, low tables for group work and cozy corners for quiet reading. There is a tiny gym, and the cafeteria doubles as an auditorium, but the building is pleasant despite these limitations.
Teachers put a lot of effort into crafting interesting lessons with many emphasizing the school-wide theme of community. Students take walking tours of the neighborhood, advocate for causes, raise money for charity and learn to acknowledge good qualities in others. First-graders study restaurants by visiting local eateries, writing about what they learn and observe, and crafting their own menus. For their study of marine life, 2nd-graders drafted persuasive pleas for causes such as saving coral reefs, whales and walruses. To foster good social and emotional development, students are often asked to write about the good qualities and kind acts of their fellow students.
Art, science, and gym are offered to all students. Students learn music and attend concerts through a partnership with the 92nd Street Y. Visiting instructors from the Salvadori Educational Center teach students about architecture and city infrastructure. Lunchtime sports and games are overseen by visiting instructors from Asphalt Green.
The PTA raises money to support the school and parents volunteer to conduct school tours. Kaplan makes sure there are lots of opportunities, like publishing parties and performances, for parents to come in. Once a month, parents are invited to Family Fridays, where they visit their child's classroom to observe lessons and participate in activities.
Perhaps the most noteworthy part of PS 151 is the story of how it came to be. Formerly housed in a dilapidated building at 91st Street and First Avenue, the old PS 151 served mostly children from the nearby housing projects before it was torn down in 2001 to make way for a high-rise residential building and a new school that would become East Side Middle School. Elementary school children who lived in the zone were dispersed to other schools in the neighborhood for years.
But parents in the community campaigned hard to have the school reopened. Kaplan, who attended PS 41 in Greenwich Village as a child and taught there before becoming assistant principal of PS 217 on Roosevelt Island, met with activist parents at an Upper East Side nursery school regularly for more than a year, sharing her vision for a new school and listening to their dreams for their children. Kaplan built relationships with the community organizations that would offer enrichment classes and built support among elected officials. She gave the school a new nameYorkville Community Schoolto help give it a fresh start. Parents of different backgrounds embraced the new school when it opened in temporary space in an old parochial school on 91st Street on 2009. Several members of the City Council provided money for renovations of a former high school building, and children moved into the current building in 2011.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are SETSS (special education teacher support services) and ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes. There are two self-contained classes for children with special needs only.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. (Clara Hemphill, October 2015)Read more