Share this school
A small, cheerful early childhood center
Children must move to another setting after 1st grade
Formerly an annex for the now-closed PS 19, across the street, PS 319 is an oddity in the city's public school system, serving only pre-kindergarten through 1st-grade children. This tiny Williamsburg school has a Spanish and English dual language program in addition to regular classes. Even though pre-k is not "officially" dual language, children sing songs in both languages, and teachers post labels around the room in Spanish and English.
Staff members stay for years, even decades, which may account for the relaxed, close-knit atmosphere. "It's a small environment," said a parent. "I like the friendliness, the teachers." Teachers do not shy away from hugging a child if they feel it's beneficial. We watched a veteran teacher comfort a child who'd had a very rough start in September. "He responds to caring," she said, patting him on the back as he relaxed into her embrace.
Classrooms are not identical but children appeared settled and familiar with routines in all the rooms. Some teachers display artwork that looks almost identical while others put up a mixture of creative styles. One 1st-grade teacher had an "early finishers" board so faster learners could choose extra work after finishing their required work. Over time, teachers have fine-tuned writing instruction with help from trainers at Teachers College, Columbia University, and have added more number routines to each day.
Principal Aleyda Zamora Martinez moved to New York in her teens from Nicaragua and graduated from Brooklyn College. She recalls running a packed after-school program at PS 19 (now PS 414), with ping pong and table games, as she rose through the ranks from teaching assistant to bilingual teacher to assistant principal. She became principal of PS 319 in 2005.
Parents are welcome here. They help lead craft projects tied to in-school lessons, serve as "mystery readers," and are invited to attend workshops. About a dozen families move away each year due to rising rents in this desirable neighborhood, but it hasn't resulted in much change in the mostly Hispanic make-up of the school. The attraction of the school's dual language environment has helped stop a decline in numbers of students, according to the principal. And plans call for a third pre-k to be added in 2015, which may draw more families.
There is no music teacher but we heard kids singing in several classes and there are science, social studies and art teachers. Children play in the courtyard or move to animated exercise videos. On very cold days they walk laps inside the square donut-shaped building.
The building has few hallways so one must walk through classrooms to get to others. Two large rooms are divided only by shelving, as in the open classrooms of the 1960s. Perhaps surprisingly, the arrangement works: Classes are orderly and teachers keep kids focused despite the distraction of, say, a science lesson in the next room where kids are blowing up balloons to learn about the properties of air.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are two team-taught ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes in 1st grade. Some children work with a specialist up to three times a week on letters, sounds and writing. The teacher works with small groups of children who need a boost in understanding numbers. "It works so well," said the RTI (response to intervention) teacher who assists children who lag in skills.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. Families may choose between PS 319 and PS 414. Martinez said some parents prefer the smaller setting and others want their children to get used to the bigger school. Most children switch to PS 414 for 2nd grade with some exceptions depending on school zone or choice. About 10 percent are from out of zone. (Lydie Raschka, April 2015)Read more