The Queens College School for Math, Science and Technology
High-achieving, diverse school that admits students by lottery from across Queens
Only two classes per grade; commute may be tough for some
PS/MS 499, the Queens College School for Math, Science and Technology is a cheery place that attracts students of different income levels and backgrounds from all over Queens. With only two classes per grade, the school feels like a close-knit community where teachers and staff get to know all the students well. Though the commute may be long for some, PS 499 is a good option for families willing to travel.
As its name suggests, the school was founded with support from Queens College and is housed in a spacious, contemporary building on the edge of the college campus. College professors work with teachers to develop the curriculum and the school benefits from a steady supply of student teachers.
The vibe is welcoming and creative. Children are calm and engaged in class and teachers and staff seem attuned to students. For instance, students having a bad day may visit Principal Simi Minhas to decompress for few minutes and read a book, play a game on an iPad or feed the fish in a large tank she keeps in her office. To reduce anxiety, a 3rd grade teacher lets her students use rods and counters (called manipulatives) to solve problems both during lessons and during a test After all theyre only eight, she said. Teachers open their classrooms to children who need extra support or a quiet place during their lunch period.
The school uses the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project curriculum, which encourages students to read a wide array of books of their choosing and at their skill level as well as write and revise multiple drafts of work on a variety of topics. They read serial stories, mysteries and historical fiction as well as biographies, memoirs, and books on social issues and science. Teachers also connect readings to topics studied in other subjects. For instance, 8th-graders studying immigration in social studies read the New Colossus by Emma Lazarus in their English class as a lead-in to a discussion on the pre- and post-Ellis Island waves of immigrants.
In fifth grade, classes are departmentalizedessentially a modified middle school format. Both teachers teach social studies but one specializes in English and the other in math. Students travel with their class between rooms for instruction in those two subjects. The benefit is that students are taught by a specialist in a classroom filled with resources to support that subject. Students change classes for each subject starting in 6th grade.
There are three science teachers, each one serving a different grade range: pre-k to 3, 4 to 6 and 7 to 8. Students in the grades 6 to 8 have science daily. In other grades students visit a science lab for lessons and their classroom teachers supplement with projects and studies. For instance, kindergartners take nature walks on campus to collect acorns and fallen leaves to learn about their various shapes, textures and colors. In science they learn about decomposition by noting changes in leaves over time and crumbling some by hand to mimic the process.
Weekly enrichment classes include Latin dance, robotics, music, art and technology.
Spanish is taught in grades 5 to 8.
Children may participate in a range of afterschool activities such as sports, arts, debate, chess and dance. The PTA sponsors programs for the elementary school and Queens Community Housing provides free activities for the middle school.
Most students stay on through the 8th grade. Graduates go on to schools such as the specialized high schools, Francis Lewis, Townsend Harris, Queens School of Inquiry and Aviation High School.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are no formal ICT classes, but special education teachers visit classrooms to support students with special needs, rather than pulling them out of class. PS/MS 499 also shares the facilities a District 75 program for students with severe disabilities.
ADMISSIONS: The school admits students by lottery. For pre-k, contact the school for an application. For kindergarten the school aims to admit an equal number of students from each Queens district. The school typically has room in kindergarten for students who are neither siblings of current students nor continuing from its pre-k. There are usually a few seats open for new students in the 4th grade, when class sizes get a bit larger. Sixth grade is the only entry point into middle school; new students are not accepted in grades 7 or 8. Contact the school for a middle school application. (Laura Zingmond, November 2016)