P.S. 61 Francisco Oller
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Families are welcome
Some parents would like to see more hands-on learning
After a decade of falling enrollment things are looking up, at PS 61 Francisco Oller, with a new leader and a fresh start. The neighborhood, too, has undergone a revival that has seen, among other things, the construction of quaint single-family homes with park views and attractive backyards. Crotona Park has evolved into a lovely green space that links the neighborhoods around it, with a restored lake, swimming pool and tennis courts.
NYC school surveys show parents are pleased with the school, and the PS 61 Twitter feed is bursting with photos of fun and educational activities for families, such as a gardening club and a family fitness night with yoga and Zumba. Parents may take English language classes or computer classes at the school. The Cook Shop program brings kids and their parents together to make and eat nutritious meals.
As a community school, PS 61 partners with the Children’s Aid Society, which runs an after-school program offering math, reading, writing and the arts. Children who are chronically late or absent are picked up and brought to school every day in a program also through Children’s Aid.
True to its status as a community school, neighborhood people are invited in. The New York Police Department jazz band entertains at assemblies and police officers read books out loud to kids, dressed in full uniform. Children may get their teeth and vision checked at the school.
Marjorie Cutler Sanchez took the helm in September 2017. A long time teacher at PS 38, who has also coached teachers, she quickly earned the trust of teachers and parents, NYC school surveys show. The principal has formed an alliance with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University, a research-based program that has been shown to boost skills in reading and writing.
Sanchezplans to hire a visual art teacher (appropriate, given the school is named after Francisco Oller, the only Latin American painter to take part in the Impressionism Movement), and to bring in more dramatic arts for 5th grade students, according to the Comprehensive Educational Plan (CEP).
Test scores have a ways to go but are inching up since Sanchez arrived in 2017. On school surveys, some parents say they’d like their children to experience more hands-on learning in lessons. Experienced teachers and mentors work with new teachers to help them improve their practice. The principal added tutoring time to the schedule for students in grades 3 to 5, to work on reading and math skills. Students learning English may meet after school to focus on math problems, in particular to study the academic words used in math, according to the CEP. [photo of children reading from @61public]
Admissions: Neighborhood school. (Lydie Raschka, web reports, September 2019)