PS 307 Pioneer Academy
Warm atmosphere with gentle teachers; spacious new building
Large class size and a wait list for kindergarten
Moms, dads, aunts, uncles, and grandparents walk their children hand-in-hand to a tree-lined courtyard outside PS 307s front door. They check shoelaces and affix barrettes before bestowing a kiss and a wave. Housed in a stylish updated fabric factory, where two streets meet under the 7 train, PS 307 is a promising, rapidly growing school with many Ecuadorian and Mexican children, a place where young teachers are learning alongside their students. Opened in 2008 to relieve overcrowding in nearby schools, the school quickly filled to capacity and, unfortunately, typically has one of the longest wait lists for kindergarten in the city.
Students wear maroon plaid jumpers or gray slacks and polo shirts. The atmosphere, like the glossy jade-green interior, is soothing and warm. Founding Principal Cecilia Jackson is a former special education teacher from PS 155 who taught briefly at Harlem Success Academy 1 and the Bronx Charter School for the Arts before attending The Summer Principals Academy at Columbia University. Walk, walk, my love, she chided a child, hugging another who brought her a bouquet of roses.
Parents are welcomed. The principal does not speak Spanish, but many of the staff do, and translators are present at meetings. Parent coordinator Maria Caraballo was born and raised in the neighborhood and plans over 100 workshops throughout the year on topics like finances, fire safety, alcohol abuse and library use. Dozens of parents have trained to become Learning Leaders to support teachers in classrooms and some assist daily at breakfast, lunch, or recess. A 2nd-grade parent transferred her child from another area school because of this welcoming policy: It attracted me, she said. You dont want to always leave your kid at the door. You want to be able to come in.
Children have access to the huge gym once or twice a week, where they dance with gusto to pumping music. Kids watch movies in the auditorium on even moderately cold days, which seems to contradict the healthy message the school is trying to convey through nutrition programs brought in by Cornell University Cooperative Extension and the CookShop Program of the Food Bank of NYC. (The principal later told us that, because parents don't wish their children to play outdoors during cold weather, the school has a practice of keeping students in when the temperature is below 40 degrees.) Music has replaced art at the request of parents, many of whom are musicians who showcase their talents on culture days.
The building is temporarily shared with five 5th grade classrooms from PS 16. They seem to get along well and even buddy up for reading but Jackson wonders if her school will have room to grow. PS 307 classes were completely full at the time of our visit, 29 per room, and most had just one teacher. Students sat packed like sardines on a rug from which they broke into small groups for individual work at tables. We saw lessons on fact versus opinion, writing, and learning to visualize while reading. Teachers defined big abstract words like visualize. Our articulate 2nd-grade tour guides, Victor and Natalia, proudly showed off the live Komodo Dragon in the science room and habitat murals. We learned that some oil went into the ocean but oil and water dont go together and now theres damage, said Natalia.
About one-third of the children qualify for English as a Second Language. The young teaching staff is learning how to help students improve their English using thematic units. In a pre-kindergarten room the theme was Feet, An entire mini shoe store was set up in the play area. Consultants come in twice a week and help with the curriculum, which is somewhat in flux. Staff may pick and choose from two math programs (Everyday Math and TERC Investigations). One downside: according to the DOEs annual 2009-10 Quality Review, the writing program could be stronger.
Special Education: In 2010-11 there were two small classrooms with only special needs children. Three rooms mixed special and general education students with two teachers, one of whom is trained to teach special education.
Admissions: Zoned neighborhood school. (Lydie Raschka, March 2011)
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Queens NY 11368