Mount Eden Children's Academy
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Beautiful and well-run school built by New Settlement Apartments
Long waitlist for seats
Mount Eden Children's Academy, opened in 2012, has quickly become the most sought after school in District 9. The modern red brick building on Jerome Avenue stands in contrast to the scrappy auto repair shops under the elevated tracks of the number 4 subway line. The New Settlement Community Campus, which houses the school, features a dance studio, rooftop garden and five-lane swimming pool.
Teachers and administrators greet kids outside in the morning and welcome parents. "From the moment my daughter entered pre-k it's been a really amazing experience for me," said a mother of two. "I never feel shut out in any way. The principal is always around."
Principal Jessica Torres Maheia is a Bronx native. Formerly an elementary school teacher, assistant principal and literacy coach, she and her staff worked with a literacy coach and consultant to write the language lessons used in the younger grades. She wanted the school to have four periods of science a week with a science teacher, because, she said, it's hard for classroom teachers to fit it in and to "build the expertise needed for teaching science."
Children get math twice a day: first is the introduction and practice of a concept and second is practice incorporating "higher order" mathematical thinking. For example, children may decide which strategy is best to use to solve a subtraction problem from several choices, or figure out how subtraction relates to addition. Children read four or five books, as a class, each year, in addition to books they choose. They also study phonics, grammar and vocabulary.
Classes are large and children are divided into ability groups for reading lessons to make sure they get the help they need. Almost every classroom has two adults: The school hires assistants to work in larger classes and there are paraprofessionals who work one-on-one with a student with a disability.
Relations between students, principal and staff are warm and genuine. The principal often checks in on students who struggle with behavior. These kids may take a break or eat a late breakfast if it helps them get through the day without a breakdown in behavior, she said.
We saw lots of play and activity in the younger grades. There are three pre-kindergartens in this still-growing school. Most children are able to move into one of the two kindergartens because class size in kindergarten is a little larger.
As for physical activity, there is a gymnasium, a pool and outside play space. "It's been nice to have a pool," said a parent. On cold days, for recess, kids "stay inside and watch movies or go to the gym," the parent said.
The campus also houses the Comprehensive Model School Project, which serves grades 6-12. The two schools occupy a dedicated portion of the building that is managed independently from the community center.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Unlike most schools, which offer an ICT (integrated co-teaching) model, Mount Eden offers only small "self-contained" classrooms for kids with special needs. "Kids in general education can function in the big classrooms with counseling, physical therapy, occupational therapy and/or speech services," Maheia said. "Others need a small setting." Placements are based on need. We saw a high-achiever in a wheelchair in a general education room with an aide called a "paraprofessional." Kids in the self-contained classrooms were lively, active and interested.
ADMISSIONS: Unzoned. Opened to District 9. There are far more applicants than seats available. Very few spots open in the upper grades. (Lydie Raschka, March 2016; updated by phone, August 2016)Read more