P.S. 506 The School of Journalism & Technology
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Strong sense of community and collaboration in multicultural school
Some space constraints, kids could benefit from more enrichment and projects, only one pre-k class
PS 506, a huge school in the heart of Sunset Park, enrolls nearly 900 students, and more than one-quarter of them are still learning to speak English. But in this positive school environment where staff and students are eager to learn and help each other, the common language seems to be community service and collaboration.
When Dana Parentini came to the school as principal in 2015, every teacher and staff member she met told her what they appreciated most about the school was the feeling of community. She works side by side with two longtime assistant principals, who seemingly know every child in the building and what makes them tickno small feat in this large polyglot school.
We have a collaborative and supportive staff," said the principal. It is really a cohesive community.
To help achieve this unity and give children a real voice in the school, all PS 506 studentsfrom the Spanish-speaking children of immigrants from Mexico and Central America to the many Chinese newcomers are immersed in the Leader in Me's "7 Habits of Happy Kids" program.
Signs are posted throughout the building, and more than just giving lip service to the habits, PS 506 appears to infuse this into all lessons. Assemblies focus on a habit every month and students participating in a Leadership Lighthouse Squad in grades 3-5 perform skits embodying the message which is then broadcast on large screens posted around the building.
We show our leadership, said a 5th-grade member of the Lighthouse Squad.
Technology is readily available in all classrooms with SMART Boards, which are used along with iPads and laptop computers. The art teacher doubles as a journalism teacher, and 3rd-, 4th- and 5th-graders produce an annual newspaper, interviewing staff and students. This is a remnant of a magnet grant; the funding is gone but the journalism and technology programs continue.
The building originally housed PS 314, a mammoth school that was divided into two in 2006: PS 503 and PS 506. Enrollment at PS 506 has been steadily creeping up to 850 in 2015; it tops 1,000 at PS 503, which has a slightly larger attendance zone.
Every nook and cranny is used: The library is actually taken up by a small art and journalism room. There are several enclosed areas where special needs kids get support services as well as two free-standing 4th-grade classrooms.
Hallways are clean and spacious, but fire department regulations prevent them from being used for small group learning, administrators said.
There is a long waiting list for the sole pre-kindergarten classroom. Four-year-olds enjoy lots of play time, but that tapers off in kindergarten where the emphasis in on literacy; even at center time the focus is on word activities, a teacher said.
There are eight special clusters where students get lessons in theater, violin and technology, but a few students told us they would like to have more enrichment activities and projects to do in their academic classes.
The many students who are learning English as a new language get help in small groups and within the classrooms. There are a few classes in the younger grades for English learners only. Many staff members speak either Spanish or Chinese, and there is simultaneous translation at workshops and school meetings.
A dual language Spanish-English program began with a kindergarten class in 2015. On our visit, students had fun sounding out words highlighted by a small star on a chart. They get instruction in both languages throughout the day rather than on alternating days as is common in many dual language programs.
The Center for Family Life, a local community organization, provides counseling for families and an after-school program for both schools in the building. There is academic help for struggling students two afternoons a week and on Saturdays.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are several small classes for students with a variety of disabilities. As they can, these students join lessons in other classrooms. Administrators and teachers seemed especially caring in those classrooms. At least one class on every grade is ICT (integrated co-teaching) and a myriad of special education services are offered.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned students only. (Pamela Wheaton, December 2015)Read more