Mott Haven Academy Charter School
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Loving attention to students, some in difficult circumstances
Building is somewhat cramped
Mott Haven Academy is a haven for a range of children, some of whom live in difficult circumstances. Two-thirds of the seats are reserved for students living in foster care or receiving prevention services; close to one-third of all students are homeless. Despite these challenges, students outperform the city average on state test scores in reading and math at the elementary level, including students with disabilities.
All children benefit from on-site social services and teachers who encourage them to talk about their feelings and work through conflicts. Teachers are trained in working with children who have difficulty establishing relationships due to abuse or neglect.
New York Foundling, one of the city's largest social service agencies, offers mental health, dental, and medical care (including asthma or interventions such as pinkeye medication), family counseling, speech and occupational therapy. There are three full-time social workers, four social-work interns, a full-time health counselor, and three academic behavior specialists.
The school day begins with a healthy breakfast at 7:45 am and ends at 4 pm. Children eat lunch in family-style groups with an emphasis on discussion and manners. It is one of only a few New York City schools with its own chef.
The prekindergarten classes are set up for learning through play. Children create pretend pet stores and read books to cuddly stuffed bears. They study science with their classroom teachers, focusing on nature and gardening. Teachers make learning interesting and get kids involved by setting up stations (different learning activities that students rotate through during a class period), according to an article in The 74.
Principal Jessica Nauiokas has provided leadership since the school opened in 2008 and has been lauded for her good work in various articles on education. She said staff try to prevent upsetting transitions, in some instances even finding a home for a child in the neighborhood so he or she doesn't have to change schools if the family moves. The bright, modern building is cramped but clean, with wooden floors, lots of windows, and interesting twisty hallways.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Children with special needs are mixed into general education classes with two teachers. More than 100 children receive free on-site counseling, and may benefit from the web of other social support the school offers.
ADMISSIONS: Lottery. Priority to kids in foster care, preventive care and District 7. (Lydie Raschka, web reports, March 2020)