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Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design

Grades: 9-12
Staff Pick Staff Pick for Special Ed

Our Insights

What’s Special

Students get professional training in architectural design and preservation arts, paid internships

The Downside

No elective classes

Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design (WHSAD) is a small school that lives up to its theme in a big way. Students follow a rigorous four-year curriculum in architecture, design and historic preservation, and get hands-on instruction in everything from drafting architectural plans and building models to mixing mortar and learning computer programs used by professional architects. The school accepts students of all abilities and gets them to succeed: Many graduate with a CTE (career and technical education) endorsed diploma and some college credits.

Gill Cornell, a former English teacher who came to WHSAD as assistant principal in 2007, became principal in 2009. He has built up a robust internship program with juniors or seniors placed in paid internships in architecture, arts, community engagement, design and preservation.

Freshmen and sophomores participate in service programs that tie into the school's theme. One group designed and constructed tree guards to install throughout the surrounding neighborhood. Others worked with Groundswell, a community arts organization, to create public art projects such as a mural on display at Ellis Island, depicting its history.

Walk into any of the shop classes and you can see hands-on and applied learning in action. In the 11th-grade shop that focuses on design, students seemed relaxed, engaged and happy as they spread out across the expansive room; some worked at tables, translating a sketched design into a sewn pattern, others retrieved supplies and still others put the finishing touches on bigger projects. In a computer lab, students worked quietly, drafting room layouts according to very detailed specifications.

Visual arts and design skills are woven into architecture work. A lot of kids know CAD (computer aided design) but not design graphics, said Cornell who explained that developing technical skills and the more abstract and creative skills associated with design are equally important in the architecture industry.

In 9th grade, students begin drawing with T-squares, and are introduced to AutoCAD and Autodesk. In the upper grades they delve more deeply into computerized programs and design skills, including electrical wiring, wood-working, drawing and creating 3-D models in various mediums (plaster, clay, metal and wood).

Academics do not get short shrift, and teachers often find ways to connect lessons to the CTE curriculum. All students take four years of math, a very important subject for aspiring builders and architects. One teacher showed us references to logorithms in a textbook on electrical work. The school-wide emphasis on design principles helped a group of 9th-graders win first place in the U.S. Department of Energys BioengizeME competition for their research and infographic on cellulosic ethanol.

Through a partnership with Park Avenue Armory, teaching artists work with WHSAD teachers to connect academic studies to arts and preservation work. Students recite poetry, perform their re-interpretation of scenes from plays read in English such as The Crucible and Macbeth, and design and construct the sets and props for an annual performance held at the armory.

To help bolster literacy and deepen students understanding of history, 10th- and 11th-graders take courses on historical speeches in addition to their regular global and U.S. history classes.

There are a handful of Advanced Placement courses and students can also take free college courses for credit at New York City College of Technology. During school breaks students can participate in field school where they work on building restoration projects.

The school is roughly 75 percent male, but girls who attend are motivated by the schools theme and thrive, says Cornell.

Students who fail a course repeat it in "night school," which runs from 2:45 to 5:45 pm. "This is not credit recovery," says Cornell. "Students have to do real classwork. No one is getting away with just writing a paper to pass."

There are no elective classes because students schedules are packed with academic and shop classes. Students participate in building-wide PSAL sports teams; clubs include Girls Who Code, photography and music.

Housed in the Van Arsdale building, WHSAD shares the facilities with Brooklyn Prep and Williamsburg Prep. Each school has its own dedicated space in the building.

Though located in a safe area of Williamsburg, students in all three schools must pass through metal detectors on their way into the building. Cornell approves, saying it keeps the school safe. Students and staff give the school high marks for safety and overall vibe based on their responses to the NYC School Survey.

In an attempt to boost parent involvement, parents are expected to collaborate with their children on in-school projects twice a year.

The graduation rate is high and many graduates go to either two- or four-year colleges, including art and technical schools. Some graduates obtain good-paying jobs and paid apprenticeships straight after high school. There is no college counselor, but there are four guidance counselors that provide college support. Each counselor follows the same class of students for all four years. Volunteers from New York Cares provide SAT prep and college essay writing help.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are ICT classes and SETSS as well as a full-time social worker on staff. (Laura Zingmond, March 2015)

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School Stats

Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average


How many students graduate in 4 years?
How many students with disabilities graduate in 4 years?
Average daily attendance
How many students miss 18 or more days of school?
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achieve the goals of their students' IEPs?
From the 2021-22 School Quality Guide and 2020-21 NYC School Survey


Number of students
Citywide Average is 599


Low-income students
Students with disabilities
Multilingual learners
From the 2022-23 Demographic Snapshot

Safety & Vibe

How many students were suspended?
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
How many students say that some are bullied at their school because of their gender or sexual orientation?
From the 2020-21 NYC School Survey and 2019-20 NY State Report Card

Faculty & Staff

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
Years of principal experience at this school
Citywide Average is 7
Number of students for each guidance counselor or social worker
Citywide Average is 157

Teachers’ Race/Ethnicity

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
Are teachers effective?
From the 2020-21 NYC School Survey, 2021-22 School Quality Guide, 2019-20 Report on School-Based Staff Demographics, 2021 Guidance Counselor Report, and this school's most recent Quality Review Report

Advanced Courses

Which students have access to advanced courses at this school? Learn more


Not offered in 2019-20

Computer Science

Not offered in 2019-20



Advanced Foreign Language


AP/IB Arts, English, History or Social Science


AP/IB Math or Science



Not offered in 2019-20
From unpublished, anonymized data from the 2021-22 school year provided by the New York State Education Department, brought to you by

College Readiness

How many students graduate with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?
How many students take a college-level course or earn a professional certificate?
How many students who have graduated from this high school stay in college for at least 3 semesters?
From the 2020-21 and 2021-22 School Quality Guide
How many students filled out a FAFSA form by the end of their senior year?
From the 2022-23 FAFSA data released by Federal Student Aid, brought you by
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data · More DOE statistics for this school

Programs & Admissions

From the 2024 High School Directory

Architecture and Design (K09X)

Admissions Method: Open

Program Description:

Students engage in coursework that promotes creative thought and technical proficiency. Students learn principles of design to articulate and defend their creative decisions. They learn industry methodologies to draft, communicate, and render physical prototypes of their designs. This ability to both create and build makes our students highly desirable for paid internships with industry partners.


From the 2024 High School Directory

Language Courses


Advanced Courses

Algebra II (Advanced Math), AP English Literature and Composition, AP Environmental Science, AP Human Geography, AP Spanish Language and Culture, AP United States History, Calculus (Advanced Math), Chemistry (Advanced Science), Physics (Advanced Science), World Languages (Advanced World Languages)

Read about admissions, academics, and more at this school on NYCDOE’s MySchools

NYC Department of Education: MySchools

Contact & Location


257 North 6 Street
Brooklyn NY 11211

Trains: G Line to Lorimer St; L Line to Bedford Av

Buses: B24, B32, B39, B44, B44-SBS, B46, B48, B60, B62, Q54, Q59


Principal: Gill Cornell

Parent Coordinator: Lai Sin Chu


Other Details

Shared campus? Yes

This school shares the Harry Van Arsdale Educational Campus with two other schools

Uniforms required? No
Metal detectors? Yes

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