Wednesday, October 23, 2013

School Tours: Paul Revere (Bernal Heights)

In our quest for our daughter to continue learning spanish, we are exploring all the Spanish Immersion schools.  Here is my review of Paul Revere.

Paul Revere is in Bernal Heights, south of Cortlandt, on Tompkins & Banks.  It is a PreK-8 school divided in to 2 buildings that are catty corner from each other at the intersection.

I was told to head to the office, in the "Annex", upon arrival to pick up my visitors badge.  The women in the office were friendly and tracked down the tour, since I was a few minutes late.  I then headed across the street to the other building and up the stairs in to the library.

I made my way upstairs and as I walked down the hall I peeked in rooms to see students and try to find the library.  In the first class, which I guess to be 5th or 6th grade, I saw groups of students collaborating together.  It looked like it was meant to be a quiet collaboration although I saw one boy standing and talking loudly.  After a closer look I realized one girl was asleep at her desk.  And the teacher was talking to another student - maybe aware of the sleeping girl, maybe not.

Moving on, I found the library, with the Principal and a handful of parents (probably 10 of us total).  Most of them were there to get information on the Spanish Immersion program.  The library is of average size (I can say this now that I've seen quite a few), not the smallest, not the biggest.  However, it also appears to the Computer Lab (iMacs).  So while we sat there talking the computers were making sounds and it was almost as if a computer game was playing in the background.  Not a quiet library space.

I learned this was the building for the upper grades.  We spoke about some school facts and here is what I recorded:

-20 students to 1 teacher
-3 Kindergarten classes
-Kindergarten has field trips about 1x/month

-PreK is not Spanish Immersion, altho the teacher does speak spanish

-They have PE on site, a lot of cooperative games and they have equipment for every kid
-The kids get about 200 minutes of PE for every 10 days

-They have 2 after school programs:
  -SF CESS: a free program for about 160 kids
  -Park & Recs program: paid for about 25 kids
-Both are on-site

-School hours are 7:50-1:50
-They have 2 school busses altho the routes change based on need so the Principal understandably didn't want to give those out
-School busses are free

-School lunch is available for purchase
-Food is provided by Revolution Foods (who serves the district)

-They have a Resident Artist 3 days/week
-They have a Nurse on site
-They also have a Social Worker on site
-They have a FT Literacy Teacher to work with the teachers

-The middle school is small and maintains the small classroom size of 20 students
-Overall it has about 110 students in the middle school
-It is not (yet) Immersion.  They are hoping to get there.
-The Principal said after Paul Revere people usually go to Lowell, Lincoln or Private high schools.

For anyone considering Spanish Immersion the Principal did speak to that process.  They expect parents to be committed for the long-haul with an Immersion program.  It takes until 5th grade to be bilingual & bi-literate.  Most of the homework is in Spanish so parents need to commit to reading and translating in Spanish (using google, etc if necessary).  The Kinder spend 90% of their day in Spanish and only 10% in English.

I felt like I was getting somewhat of a sales pitch from the Principal.  I wasn't confident I was hearing about the schools struggles as much as the schools growth and accomplishments.  When we started the tour she didn't show us any upper grades, saying that we "were only interested in the K classes" so she would take us there.  I was in fact very interested in the 3rd, 4th, 5th and up grades to see what work they're doing, how they behave, what their classrooms look like (esp. since I had seen an unflattering sneak peak).  But she didn't walk us by those.  I wasn't sure if this was intentional or if she really thought we wouldn't be interested.

Before we left the main building the Principal spotted a 5th grader on his cell phone chatting (during class time) in the hall.  She mentioned that she is ok with kids using the phone when they need to.  A lot of parents might respond well to that knowing they can be in touch with their child whenever.  I would prefer he was in class and called home on a break.

We made our way from the library to the Annex; crossing the street and watching a 1st grade class also cross the street. I got a little bit nervous about my Kinder having to cross that street to get to the cafeteria (which is in the Main Building, not the Annex where the K classrooms are).

Paul Revere's Main Building

The Annex is the building where the PreK-3rd graders are.  The playground has a very nice view.  I did see a lot of art and handwriting on the halls.  As well as Spanish cultural items throughout the school (ie, sugar skulls).   The Annex still feels large and the Kindergarteners go to the bathroom by themselves; there is no separate bathroom for the really young ones.  I didn't love the either buildings for their warmth.

They do have a large special needs program and a one-on-one program for the kids that need it.  Those are in the Annex building.

The school is progressively getting more diverse.  The younger grades have more diversity than the older grades.  As a caucasian family we want our child to be in a diverse environment, specifically one that is diverse enough that she is not the only caucasian.  That is a concern at Revere.  There were more white kids in the younger grades - maybe 3-4 in a class of 20?  But the third grade seemed less diverse.  So diversity is improving and based off GreatSchools data so is their test scores.

Overall, for us, I was just impressed enough with the school.  I didn't feel like my daughter would thrive here or that she would meet a lot of similar families/friends.   If I lived nearby I might give it more thought.  But it didn't leave me with that warm-and-fuzzy feeling and we won't be applying here.

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