School welcomes students who speak little or no English
Academics, while improving, have a ways to go
Manhattan Academy for Arts and Language (MAAL) is designed to teach new immigrants English by integrating the arts with academic classes. The school offers classes in photography, videography, theater, and string instruments. Students may choose either transitional bilingual classes (in both Spanish and English) or classes in English as a New Language (in English).
“Most students are newly arrived in the country [about 60 percent], and yet they still accomplish so much,” said founding Principal Siv Boletsis. Most students come from areas where Spanish is spoken (often the Dominican Republic) and arrive with weak academic skills. Many students travel from Washington Heights because programs there fill up. Roughly 100 students live in temporary housing.
The school’s on-time graduation rate has improved in recent years since the school adopted AP for All, a program designed to encourage any hard-working students, not just high-achievers, to take more challenging classes. Students get extra help in a study period and in Saturday classes.
“Raising the bar, raising the expectation, has really had an impact,” Boletsis said.
Boletsis arrived in New York speaking only Greek, and the 3rd-grade teacher at her Queens elementary school loudly called her stupid when she couldn’t understand assignments. “I knew no English, but I knew the word stupid,” Boletsis told InsideSchools. Now, as principal, she makes sure students who speak little or no English get a warmer reception.
The school has two drama programs in partnership with Young Audiences of New York and Manhattan Theater Club. Students may write a script based on a novel, or bring their personal stories to life onstage. In other partnerships, some students secure internships at accounting firms, or participate in the Cornell University summer medicine program.
Manhattan Academy for Arts and Letters is a training ground for English as a New Language teachers from Baruch and Hunter colleges. A couple teachers on staff have won awards for excellence in teaching.
Every senior applies to college and gets in; as a group, they have earned more than a million dollars in scholarship money, Boletsis said. POSSE scholarship winners are common; there were five in 2018. The school has a partnership with Opportunity Network, which trains students to succeed in the workplace.
Boletsis said Manhattan Academy has a strong bond with alumni: one spoke to current students about her experience in medical school; another about her photography work.
Parents are invited to potlucks, and workshops, including immigration clinics set up by the Department of Education. “We have huge parent participation,” Boletsis said.
The school, opened September 2010, shares the Norman Thomas High School Educational Campus with other small schools. Norman Thomas High School, a modern brick tower located south of Grand Central Terminal, was closed in 2014 for poor performance. All students pass through metal detectors at the school’s main entrance. Some MAAL students take chemistry courses at Unity Center for Urban Technologies in the building. Sports are campus-wide.
Admissions: English Language Learners (Lydie Raschka, web reports and interview, April 2019)
Safety & Vibe
Faculty & Staff
CalculusNot offered in 2019-20
Computer ScienceNot offered in 2019-20
PhysicsNot offered in 2019-20
Advanced Foreign Language
AP/IB Arts, English, History or Social Science
AP/IB Math or Science
Programs & AdmissionsFrom the 2021 High School Directory
Manhattan Academy for Arts & Language
Students have the choice of either a Freestanding ESL Program or a TBE in Spanish. Intensive ESL and ELA is provided for all students. Global History and Native Language Arts are linked for TBE students. Accelerated students have opportunities to take the Geometry CC, Algebra II CC and Pre-Calculus. MAAL students take AP courses and College Now at Hunter and Baruch Colleges. Students have the opportunity to play a string instrument.
OfferingsFrom the 2021 High School Directory
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Environmental Science, AP World History: Modern, AP Spanish Language and Culture, AP English Literature and Composition
Boys PSAL teams
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Softball, Volleyball
Contact & Location
111 East 33rd Street
Manhattan NY 10016
Trains: , , , to Grand Central-42nd St; to 33rd St; , , , , , , , to 34th St
Buses: BM1, BM2, BM3, BM4, BM5, BxM1, BxM10, BxM11, BxM18, BxM2, BxM3, BxM4, BxM6, BxM7, BxM8, BxM9, M1, M101, M102, M103, M15, M15-SBS, M2, M3, M34-SBS, M34A-SBS, M4, M42, M5, M55, M7, M9, Q32, QM1, QM10, QM12, QM15, QM16, QM17, QM18, QM2, QM20, QM21, QM24, QM3, QM31, QM32, QM34, QM35, QM36, QM4, QM40, QM42, QM44, QM5, QM6, X1, X10, X10B, X12, X14, X17, X17J, X2, X21, X22, X22A, X27, X28, X30, X31, X37, X38, X42, X5, X63, X64, X68, X7, X9
This school shares the Norman Thomas Educational Campus with three other schools
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Manhattan, NY 10016
Manhattan, NY 10016