Bright, cheerful facility, diverse pre-k to 8 school
Students from far-flung neighborhoods must be driven or take buses to school
Located in a bright airy facility on the Frank Padavan campus in eastern Queens, PS/IS 266 is a welcoming pre-k through 8 school whose students come from across District 26. Along with the usual academics, PS/IS 266 offers Spanish for all students starting in 1st grade, character education programs and music and art classes.
Students, selected by lottery, come from far-flung neighborhoodsFresh Meadows to Bellerose. On the plus side, that creates a diverse school; a downside is that almost all students must take buses or cars to get there and may live far from one another. School-sponsored clubs and special programs give the children the sense of community they might have in a neighborhood school.
While the school's test scores are quite high, Principal Nicole Scott believes what most distinguishes the school is its emphasis on the whole child. All grades participate in a character education program based on values promoted by the late UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. Every month all students in kindergarten through 8th grade read the same bookeach one geared to a specific trait, such as loyaltyand do an activity related to it. The school recognizes students for acts of kindness and promotes activities such as a school-wide effort to make blankets for a woman's shelter.
During our visit, we saw an 8th grade student comforting a 5th-grader in the hallway. The younger child was upset because an upcoming presentation had given her a bad case of stage fright, the older girl explained.
"In our kids, the social emotional piece is so critical. If these things are not in place, it's very hard to get them to be accountable for the academic piece." Scott says.
Instruction is mostly traditional, with the teacher at the front of the room and children reading the same book. In one class we visited, students spent a fair amount of time copying an assignment. But there is also time for class discussions: 5th-graders weighed in on various ways to compute the volume of a complex shape, while 2nd-graders offered theories as to why a character in a book they were reading was so cranky. One said, "I think he's feeling jealous because they're treating his house badly." The teacher nodded, but added, "I don't know if 'jealous' is the right word." "Defeated," a girl suggested.
Parents appreciate the continuity of a k-8 school, and staffers work hard to make sure students in grades 6-8 do not feel deprived of a middle school experience. An accelerated program for some 7th- and 8th-graders enables them to take the Earth Science and Algebra 1 Regents exams.
All students in the elementary grades take visual art and music. At the end of 5th grade, children opt to specialize in either of those areas or in technology for the next three years. Everyone takes Spanish starting in 1st grade. This allows many 8th-graders to pass the language proficiency exam.
PS/IS 266 offers extra help, including one-on-one instruction and small group sessions, for struggling students. For two months before the state standardized tests in April, students in danger of not doing well can attend an after-school program. Saturday preparation classes are also available for any student who wants to attend.
Kindergartners get less time to play than they once did, Scott said but it's not all academics. On the day we visited, "Professor Bread" was on hand to help kids bake. As the children shook jars with cream"Shake, Shake, Shake, Butter we will make," the professor removed bread from the oven and set it aside for a few minutes, so it could be slathered andbest of alltasted.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers a range of services, including self-contained classes and some team-teaching. PS/IS 266 shares its building with a District 75 program for middle school students with more serious disabilities. Some of those students attend PS/IS 266 classes for part of the day, and they participate in a buddy program with IS 266 children.
ADMISSIONS: Students are admitted by lottery. Most children who start in kindergarten remain at the school through 8th grade.(Gail Robinson, May 2016)
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Queens, NY 11426