P.S. 215 Morris H. Weiss
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Strong music and science programs
Large class size in upper grades
PS 215 is a warm and inviting school with strong programs in science and music. Both children and teachers seem happy to be here, and there is low staff turnover.
The school’s century-old building is surrounded by suburban-looking, single family homes with manicured lawns in Gravesend. Inside, the school reflects all the diversity of New York City--a “melting pot” with children of different backgrounds learning together.
Principal Antonella Bove says it’s important for teachers not to feel isolated, and so she makes sure they have plenty of time to plan lessons together. The joint planning pays off: Children get exposed to the same kinds of lessons whether they are in gifted classes (which draw children from across the district), general education classes, or team-taught classes that mix general education and special education pupils. There is a logical progression from one grade to the next, particularly in science—an area that many elementary schools all but ignore.
“Some schools look at…science as secondary but not here,” says Bove. “It really is a highlight of our curriculum.”
During our visit, 1st graders were studying animal diversity, 2nd graders volcanoes, 3rd graders taking an in-depth look at matter and 4th graders discovering how to measure types of matter. For 5th grade, a study of rocks had students molding their own sedimentary “rocks” (pressing together bits of sand or glitter and glue) in ice cube trays and then, with the help of architectural blue prints, using their homemade “rocks” and other household items to craft miniature stone monuments. They also translated the architectural blueprints to game design, creating virtual rooms with laptops for 3-d video games. Rocks even played central roles in fiction stories the kids wrote, some as long as 10 pages.
Another highlight is the school’s music program. The school has two full-time music teachers and, beginning in kindergarten, children learn to play instruments and read music. They may join the school orchestra, chorus or rock band in the higher grades.
Students said they have about 30 minutes to an hour of homework each night. While in-class work is very hands-on, often with material created by the teachers, math and science homework relies more textbooks, especially in the older grades.
PS 215 shares space with a District 75 special education program. The building is old but hallways and rooms are tidy and brightly painted. One downside is large class size, about 30 in the upper grades.
Special education: PS 215 offers a range of services for special needs children, including co-taught classes in each grade that mix general and special education students. The school also has self-contained special education classes and English as a Second Language services. The school is barrier-free and fully accessible by wheelchair. PS 215 has a social worker and school psychologist to deal with social and emotional needs of the students.
Admissions: Neighborhood school; district-wide gifted and talented program for District 21. (Anna Schneider, October 2013)