P.S. 230 Doris L. Cohen
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Large, diverse school with strong sense of community, many connections with arts organizations
Two different buildings a block apart, no outdoor playground at the lower school
At PS 230 in Kensington, girls in headscarves play happily in the block corner with new immigrants from Mexico, while their mothers may be attending an English class elsewhere in the building. The school is a welcoming gathering place for neighborhood residents.
Some 80 percent of students speak another language at homemostly Bengali, Spanish or Chinesesaid Principal Maria Della Ragione. Newcomers arrive regularly. On the day of our visit, a shy Puerto Rican girl was being shown around by several other Spanish-speaking girls.
Della Ragione, a longtime teacher of English as a second language, has thought carefully about how to integrate children who are still learning English as well as those with special needs. Instead of pulling kids out, ESL and special education teachers often work with children in their regular classrooms so they don't miss class time. Teachers use drawings and pictures to illustrate written lessons on the boards and walls.There are 13 ESL teachers.
Art projects give all children a way to express themselves. In a 3rd-grade lesson, children tell stories through collage; 4th-graders make comic books and story-boards and 5th-graders produce stop-action Claymation and animate it, presenting their three-minute short films in a festival in May. "The arts connection provides a way for children to represent their thinking visually," said the principal.
Chinese dancers come in for Chinese New Year. There's a feast for Bengali New Year, costumes for Dia de los Muertos and even an American hoedown with square dancing. Parents turn out in high numbers on the weekends to participate in activities such as Science Saturday where children make volcanoes or conduct other experiments. Parents may take English classes. PS 230 is a family-friendly place, and some teachers enroll their own children in the school.
Longstanding collaborations with arts organizations help enrich the curriculum. These include Mark Morris for dance, Brooklyn Children's Theater for musical theatre and music with Ms. Suzi, a former school parent. New York Cares is a huge presence: Volunteers lead robotics workshops, cooking groups and tennis lessons on Saturday. They even take children on visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The PTA and the school split the bill for many of the arts programs, and film companies that shoot nearby in an empty subway station use the school's cafeteria and facilities, and donate money to the school.
Children come by schoolbus or subway to the district-wide gifted and talented program. "We dig a little bit deeper into some of the ideas," the 1st-grade G&T teacher said.Children in G&T classrooms are together from kindergarten to 5th grade. "Families get very close, with playdates and even vacationing together, said the principal. All classrooms, including G&T, are bright and inviting with students intent on learning.
Della Ragione was an assistant principal under the tutelage of Sharon Fiden, the well-respected principal she replaced in 2014. She is an energetic, hands-on leader. "My passion is to be in the classrooms. I am an educator and I am a coach and I am a mother," she said. "I'm going to jump in with you and we're going to do it together, if you're struggling."
PS 230 is housed in two buildings one block apart. The main building, a traditional looking schoolhouse constructed in 1930, houses grades 2-5. The annex, for pre-k to 1st grade, is brightly lit and clean with each floor painted a different color. There is a tiny outdoor area with padded flooring, that individual teachers use on occasion, but mainly children play mainly in a large indoor gym for recess. "It's a challenge, absolutely," said the gym teacher. "They need the gross motor skills." They do take regular walks around the neighborhood, recording what they see.
Popular middle school choices are MS 88 and Brooklyn Prospect.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Both buildings have elevators and are accessible for students with physical disabilities. There are four self-contained classrooms for children with disabilities only, including some on the autism spectrum. Parents started a support group for families with children on the spectrum. PS 230 uses flexible scheduling and integrates special needs children into other classrooms, when possible, the principal said. There are ICT classes in every grade.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. There is frequent movement as many children move out of the area, or out of state, and new immigrants arrive. Children are admitted to the G&T program based on the results of a citywide exam. (Pamela Wheaton, January 2016; updated August 2016)Read more