Mott Haven Academy Charter School
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Loving attention for foster children
Building is somewhat cramped
Mott Haven Academy is a haven for some of the neediest South Bronx children. One-third live in foster care; another third are in temporary housing or at risk of being removed from their homes. All benefit from on-site social services and teachers who encourage them to talk about feelings and to work through conflicts.
New York Foundling, one of the city's largest social service agencies, offers mental health, dental, and medical care (including asthma or 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. It is one of few New York City schools with its own chef. Children study science with their classroom teachers, focusing on nature and gardening.
In a relaxed yet carefully structured atmosphere, children thrive in one of two playful prekindergarten classes, where they pretend to run pet stores and nail salons and read books to cuddly stuffed bears. "I know our students love being here," said a Pre-K teacher. The staff is racially and ethnically diverse and teachers use their own experiences to augment lessons. During an immigration lesson, for example, the director of the after-school program, who is Guyanese, told a group of 2nd-graders about sugar cane, a historic wooden church, and wedding rituals in his home country.
Principal Jessica Nauiokas has provided steady leadership since the school opened in 2008. Staff try to prevent upsetting transitions, in some instances finding a home for a child in the neighborhood so he doesn't have to change schools if his family moves. The bright, modern building is cramped but clean, with wooden floors, lots of windows, and interesting twisty hallways. The school plans to add middle-school grades.
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 supports the school offers.
ADMISSIONS: Lottery. Priority to kids in foster care, preventive care and District 7. (Lydie Raschka, May 2015; updated August 2016)Read more