P.S. 96 Richard Rodgers
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Music program includes a choir and band
Many children miss a month or more of school
PS 96 has served families in Allerton, in the South Bronx, for decades; many of the current parents were students here, and even some grandparents. The school has a robust music program, including a choir, and band, which is rare in elementary school.
Joan Vetere became principal in fall 2019. In addition to making a decision to add pre-k (Fall 2020), she changed the daily and weekly schedule so teachers have time to meet and plan together—and to observe one another teach in order to exchange ideas. She has worked to build consistency in instruction school-wide.
“Now, if you walk the building, in front of everyone’s door is a schedule and what they’re learning this month,” said assistant principal Christine Torres. And math has a consistent flow that builds from kindergarten through grade 5.
To raise test scores, the staff has revamped its approach to lessons, adopting Envision Math, which emphasizes hands-on and visual learning at a child’s own pace. and Expeditionary Learning, which was used in the upper grades but is now also used in the lower grades. Expeditionary Learning is project-based, learner-centered instruction where students work in small learning groups. Torres said these programs are more rigorous and challenging for students than their previous programs.
The school takes steps to welcome parents. Parents may visit children’s classes and borrow books from the beautiful school library. Every teacher leads a parent workshop once a month, including art, gym and academic intervention teachers. The principal sends parents a monthly newsletter.
For years, the school was seriously overcrowded. There were portable classrooms on the playground, and the entire 1st-grade attended classes in an annex half a mile away. A new addition with 20 new classrooms was constructed in 2015, uniting all the children of PS 96 under one roof for the first time in more than 20 years.
Chronic attendance is below average for the city; some children miss school because of asthma; others live in temporary housing or homeless shelters—unstable housing situations that contribute to absenteeism.
“Attendance has always been an issue,” said Torres. The staff meet weekly to discuss attendance issues , mentors follow up with children who are absent and the school offers incentives, such as pajama day or super hero day.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school has small, mixed-age “self-contained” classes for children with severe disabilities, and ICT (integrated co-teaching ) classes that mix children in general education and children with disabilities in one classroom with two teachers. Children with special needs work primarily with specialists inside the classroom, rather than being pulled out, so they don’t miss anything in class, Torres said.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. (Lydie Raschka, web reports and interview, March 2020)