P.S./M.S. 11X498-Van Nest Academy
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Environmental health focus; technology and art
Limited seats for incoming middle school students
P.S./M.S. 498 the Van Nest Academy for Environmental Health Sciences and Technology is a popular school offering lots of hands-on science, technology and arts in a supportive and respectful atmosphere.
With technology infusing the entire curriculum, Van Nest seeks to provide students with a solid foundation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). There is a particular emphasis on environmental health sciences to help students develop problem solving, critical thinking and research skills. Partnerships with Urban Advantage, Operation Explore, New York Botanical Garden, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Bronx River Alliance enable students to investigate health issues in their community.
The program also is rich in the arts. All students have physical education, art, music and health every week. An arrangement with Ballet Hispanico provides instruction in Latin dance for 1st and 2nd graders, while 4th and 8th graders take ballroom dancing. Music instruction includes singing and instrumental music.
Perhaps not surprisingly given its science focus, math scores on the state standardized exams are well above average, but scores on the English language arts exam are about average for New York City. The school does not offer high school credit classes to middle school students.
A reviewer from the Department of Education praised Van Nest for the “excellent rapport and mutual respect between adults and students.” Staff members know the students well, and an active student council gives students a role in school decision making. Discipline is by all accounts excellent, partly a result, school reports show, of there being immediate consequences—usually 50 minutes of required study hall—for students who misbehave, don’t do their homework or are extremely tardy.
Carol Gilligan, a former science administrator, has been principal at Van Nest since the beginning. She gets high marks from teachers and parents in a Department of Education survey. Teachers in the survey said they would recommend Van Nest to parents looking for a school for their child or to other teachers.
Van Nest is housed in a bright, modern building shared with Icahn Charter School 2. While the building is beautiful, classrooms are smaller than ideal and the wide, spacious hallways seem to be wasted space. Some of the classrooms were cramped, particularly since classes tend to be large and the building has more students than it was intended for.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Van Nest offers team teaching classes with a mix of general and special education students as well asself-contained classrooms for students with disabilities. The school also has a partnership with a nearby District 75 program for students with more severe disabilities, which includes co-teaching and a “Best Buddies” program where Van Nest 7th graders are paired with D75 students.
ADMISSIONS: For kindergarten, the school gives priority to students who are zoned to attend P.S. 83, 105, and 108 or District 11 students who have siblings in the school. Although other students may apply, they are less likely to be admitted. For middle school, priority goes to students who attended the elementary school. There are a very limited number of remaining seats, with priority going to students from the three area elementary schools, although other students may apply. (Gail Robinson, DOE reports, June 2020)