P.S. 5 Dr. Ronald McNair
Share this school
French dual language program, free after school
Declining enrollment, poor attendance
PS 5 is a tiny school with an enrollment that has dropped by half in recent years as neighborhood parents opted for charter schools or other traditional public schools. Barely 15 percent of the kindergartners who live in the school’s attendance zone attend PS 5, according to city statistics.
That may change soon: at the urging of local parents, the school decided to add a French dual language progam in the fall of 2018 that promises to attract families.
On the positive side, parents say they like the teachers, particularly in the pre-kindergarten classes. “My son who is in Pre-K comes home every day excited to share what he has learned,” one mother wrote to InsideSchools. On our visit, children seemed happy and engaged.
The school has a newly renovated library, staffed by a full-time librarian. Children use laptops throughout the school and learn computer coding as part of the SEPjr (Software Engineering Program Junior) program. There is a free after-school program. The principal has an open door policy and welcomes visitors.
In addition to free breakfast, lunch and dinner, the school sends meals home over the weekend.
However, the school faces many challenges. Attendance is poor, and nearly half the children miss more than a month of school each year, according to Department of Education statistics. PS 5 serves a large number of homeless children, some of whom stay in nearby shelters; others travel by bus from the Bronx or Queens. Their unstable housing contributes to poor attendance.
There appears to be some friction between the administration and staff. One-third of teachers say they don’t think the principal is effective and nearly half say there are problems with order and discipline, according to school surveys. Principal Lena Gates, who has led the school since 1998, told us some teachers “feel threatened” by a new, less punitive approach to discipline.
The building also houses PS 369, a District 75 for children with severe disabilities.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There is a social worker, a guidance counselor and a psychologist according to the budget summary. There are small “self-contained” classes for kids that mix children with special needs into general education classes with two teachers.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. (Clara Hemphill, May 2018)Read more