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P.S. 75 Emily Dickinson
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Dual language program, rich art offerings
Occasional discipline problems
PS 75 is a gritty, idealistic place, committed to teaching children who live in expensive co-ops on Riverside Drive to learn alongside those who live in housing projects. It has a large group of committed, enthusiastic parents who organize activities like family movie night, a Halloween party and dances for both grown-ups and children.
With a mix of children of different races, the school is an oasis for multiracial families who fear their children would be isolated in schools where one race predominates. The tone is warm and welcoming to both parents and children. One parent said she likes the fact the school is "not too progressive, not too rigid," with a good balance between structure and freedom.
Long known for its dual language program, in which children become fluent in both English and Spanish, PS 75 also takes pride in its rich art offerings and its ASD Nest program, in which children on the autism spectrum share an extra-small class with children in general education and two teachers.
The quality of children's writing we saw on our visit was good, with essays posted on engaging topics such as "Are zoos harmful or helpful for endangered species?" Sophisticated children's artwork covers the corridor walls, part of the collaboration with the nonprofit Studio in a School, which sends teaching artists to give every child lessons every week. Every 5th-grader studies ballroom dancing, and children from various grades take part in the Young People's Chorus.
Longtime principal Robert O'Brien works to make sure children have plenty of time to move around their classrooms, understanding that all children need exercise and no one likes to sit still all day. Children have physical education twice a week in a large gym. They go out to recess before eating lunch, which O'Brien says gives them a chance to "get their sillies out." On rainy days, some children watch movies in the auditoriumbut other may toss a ball around with school aides in the gym.
The building, built in 1950, is a bit drab. While some rooms are invitingsuch as the well-equipped library with books in both English and Spanishothers are cluttered. The corridors are dimly lit with flickering florescent lights and gray- or green-tiled walls. Some floors are black, others have gray and pink squares.
The school was orderly on our visit, with children happily engaged in every class we saw. Even the cafeteriaa chaotic place in many schoolswas pleasant, with children chatting quietly. However, some teachers complain of discipline problems on school surveys. PS 75 serves children from a nearby shelter for victims of domestic violence, and sometimes children with difficult home lives bring their problems to school, staff members say. O'Brien says the school works hard to get children the help and support they need. The parents we spoke to shrugged off concerns and said that a few discipline problems don't interfere with children's education.
The school has a good record getting children admitted to their middle school choices. Most 5th-graders end up at MS 245 The Computer School, MS 54, Mott Hall II and West Side Collaborative (housed on the top floor of PS 75).
PS 75 runs an after-school program that includesprograms in ceramics, art, science, tennis, musical instruments, theater, dance, ice-skating, rock climbing, chess and more. There is a fee but scholarships are available for those in need.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes on every grade level with two teachers, one of whom is certified in special education. The school also has an ASD Nest Program for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Students with ASD learn in a classroom alongside typically developing children, taught by two teachers who have been trained in the program's specialized curriculum and teaching strategies.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. About one-third of the student body comes from outside the school attendance zone. O'Brien says don't be discouraged if your child isn't admitted on the first application round in the spring; seats open up. "We want people who want to be here," he said. "Call us weekly. Don't worry about pestering us." (Clara Hemphill and Mahalia Watson, January 2016)