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P.S. 107 John W. Kimball
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Popular Park Slope school with active family community, emphasis on physical fitness
Some large classes and serious space crunch, no gym or auditorium
Housed in a quirky, historic building with a plum location on leafy Eighth Avenue, PS 107 has a well-developed writing program; a winning track team; and an active parent body that raises money for programs in dance and music, and a much-vaunted after-school program. The school's enrollment has increased along with its popularity in recent yearssome classes have as many as 32 children.
Eve Litwack, who became principal of PS 107 in 2011 after serving as assistant principal of PS 321, has adopted some of the practices of her former school, encouraging children "to take charge of their work." Classrooms are set up in stations, and children rotate from one activity to the next, working at their own pace. Some children use a computer program for math, getting feedback as they master a level. Writing is a huge focus: Beginning in kindergarten, children learn the basics of story structure, then write, edit and publish their own stories.
Litwack wants to give children a voice: One year, the student council learned about the City Council's "participatory budgeting" process, which gives community groups a say in how city money is spent. The children then applied the principles to their own school, and, with a $1,000 contribution from the PTA, bought balls and jump ropes for the play yard and more equipment for the science lab.
Fifth-graders have separate teachers for reading, writing, math and social studies. Students have planners and carry backpacks from class to class. "It really prepares them for what they'll encounter in middle school," said the principal.
Test scores are among the highest in the district, andunlike some nearby schoolsnot many families have their children opt out of taking state exams. Under Litwack, the emphasis has shifted away from test prep. After hearing stories from parents about the amount of test-related homework their children were getting, she asked teachers to limit it to just one period per day for three weeks before the tests and only give test prep homework twice a week. "As a school we want our kids to do well," she said, "but the best test prep is good teaching."
Although the school has no gymnasium, it has a winning track team. All children in grades 1-5 run laps twice a week in the Armory track across the street. Kindergartners run laps on the school playground because the cavernous Armory was daunting for them, the principal said. Once a week, families meet at 7 am for "fun runs" the length of Prospect Park followed by breakfast with the physical education teacher.
The 19th-century building has a cramped, awkward layout; some classrooms are only accessiblity only by going through other classes. A large, sunny space on the top floor is used for the arts and a library.
On the first Friday of the month, the school is open for families to visit their child's classroom. The PTA pays for authors such as R. L. Stine to visit the school. It also funds programs with the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Martha Graham Dance Company, Together in Dance and ballroom dancing.
Popular middle school choices include MS 51, MS 839 and Mark Twain.
PS 107 has long been known for its many after-school offerings developed by parents. "People used to come for after-school but kind of stayed for the day. I'd like it to be that they come for the quality of the school and the after-school is a bonus," said Litwack. Offerings include puppet-making, instruction in Mandarin and fencing. About two-thirds of the students attend the after school program.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are ICT classrooms on every grade with two teachers, one for general education and the other for special education.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. The school hosts many tours. (Pamela Wheaton, March 2016; updated August 2016)