P.S. 204 Morris Heights
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Lots of music and science in a beautiful building
Some concerns about safety outside the school
A gorgeous building, science lessons three times a week, as well as music, dance, art and lots of field trips make PS 204 a sought-after school. Parents and teachers are very satisfied with the school, according to the Department of Educations annual surveys.
Amanda Blatter become principal in 2014 when longtime principal Marcy Glattstein retired. Blatter, who served as principal of PS 109 for 11 years, is energetic and really seems to care about the kids. "Teachers absolutely love her," said school secretary Rosalie Carbone. Blatter said teacher turnover is low, and teachers support one another and work collaboratively.
On our visit, pre-k children were engaged in dramatic play and painting, thoroughly enjoying themselves. "It's what pre-k should be," Blatter said. "I love mess. That means they are getting creative in their play."
The school has introduced the respected Teacher's College Reading and Writing Workshop, a approach that teachers say gets kids excited about writing and reading, while building strong reading and editorial skills. Blatter says the school is shifting from a traditional form of instruction—with teachers doing most of the talking—to one in which children are encouraged to take part in class discussions.
The music program seems particularly strong. Children in every grade from pre-k to 5th learn to sing or play musical instruments. They also study music theory. Instruments include recorder, drums, xylophone, guitar and piano.
There are lots of fun activities, such as a class trip to see a puppet show in Central Park, the New York Historical Society or Wave Hill gardens. Children learn ballroom dancing, singing, studio art and even put on musicals such as "Aladdin." They have physical education two or three times a week in a large gym. Children go out for recess every day.
There are two full-time science teachers, and a dedicated science lab—rare in elementary school. On one of our visits, we saw kids look at pictures of animals and identify which features show their adaptation to their environment. For example, an ostrich’s long legs allow it to run fast and escape its predators. A giraffe’s long neck allows it to eat leaves in the treetops and spot predators from a distance.
Some concerns about safety outside the school show up on school surveys, but teachers overwhelming say students are safe in school.
The school serves many children in shelters or living doubled up with relatives. Good Shepherd Services offers therapy for children.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: PS 204 offers a range of services, including, Integrated co-Teaching (team-teaching classes that combine students with disabilities and general education students) and small "self-contained" classes. The school shares a building with a District 75 program for children with severe disabilities. A handful of children with autism from the District 75 school are mixed into general education classes.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned neighborhood school. (Mahalia Watson, November 2015; updated with web reports, March 2020)