P.S. 199 Jessie Isador Straus
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Exciting lessons in every class
No pre-kindergarten; waitlists for kindergarten
A unified staff with a shared vision of education; an active parent organization; and a long history of stable, effective leadership make PS 199 one of the most sought-after schools in the city. Walk into the school at any time, and you're likely to see lively instruction and happy, engaged kids in every class.
The school leadership and staff are self-confident enough to resist the latest education fads. Instead, they rely on their long experience to offer a sophisticated approach to teaching writing and math. Student teachers from Teachers College perfect their craft and some are hired as regular teachers when they finish their graduate work.
Children learn to read from picture books and children's literature--not textbooks. The Everyday Math curriculum incorporates math games and paper-and-pencil work. Science involves hands-on projects and exploration. In one class we visited, 3rd-graders learned about adaptation by stroking a live rabbit and pondering why it had eyes on the sides of its head (to better spot predators) and strong back legs (to better escape).
The depth and volume of student writing is impressive. Posted on the walls were thoughtful essays on topics such as Columbus: Hero or Villain and lesser known explorers like Amazing John Cabot and Jacques Cartier.
The school boasts big, bright classrooms, a gym with soaring windows, a music room, a wheelchair-accessible playground, two art rooms and a well-equipped library. All classrooms are well-equipped and kid-friendly. Kindergarten classrooms have blocks and play areas; one 5th-grade classroom has comfy sofas. The PTA, which raises more than $800,000 a year, pays for teaching assistants in the lower grades.
"The reason we are able to fill the classrooms with all of these wonderful materials is the PTA," said longtime parent coordinator Allison Sansoucie, who gave us our tour.
The school has partnerships with several arts organizations, including the New York Philharmonic, Vital Theatre, Lincoln Center Institute and National Dance Institute, whose teaching artists work with each of the 4th-grade classes once a week. A "Special Forces" class combines general education pupils with special needs students, including some in wheelchairs, in a dance collaboration.
New construction in the area caused overcrowding at the school, and the attendance zone for the school was made smaller in 2017. Although the new zone includes a sliver of the Amsterdam Houses public housing development, most of the housing in the attendance zone is very expensive. Despite the rezoning, the school is still filled to capacity and there is no pre-kindergarten. There was a waitlist for kindergarten in 2018.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: One of the city's first barrier-free schools, PS 199 has a legacy of serving students with physical challenges. The playground is wheelchair accessible.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. In recent years, there has been a waitlist for kindergarten. (Clara Hemphill, November 2015, updated October 2018 to reflect zone change.)Read more