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The ‘Perfect Storm’ Hits NYC Parents

How to Remember a Storm
Creative Commons License photo credit: lrargerich

It has been brewing for a few weeks now, but many NYC parents feel like a ‘perfect storm’ has finally hit, creating a wave of stress, anxiety, panic, and anger. Although New Yorkers are known for their resilience, the stress of these past few weeks has taken its toll on many parents and their children.

Stress of the Economy
First, there is the stress and sequelae of our general economic times. Some parents are being laid off or others are fearful of losing their jobs. Many are worried about debt and declining real estate and retirement account values. For those families already in Firm Schools, the stress revolves around being able to pay their child’s tuition or getting any financial aid. The American Psychological Association has put together a tip sheet entitled “Managing Your Stress in Tough Economic Times” which may be helpful to parents.

Anxiety about Swine Flu
Second, NYC parents are anxious about swine flu. Should we cancel playdates? birthday parties? let our children take public transportation?

The Health Department updated the NYC swine flu situation on May 4, reporting a total of 73 confirmed cases and is waiting for results for 6 probable cases from the CDC. At St. Francis Prep and nearby Public School Q177 in Queens, there are 69 confirmed cases and 5 probable cases. Public School Q177 will reopen today and St. Francis Prep reopened on May 4. The Health Department also reported that there are two confirmed NYC cases related to the outbreak in Mexico and two cases that are not associated with either the outbreaks at the Queens schools or Mexico.

For those who are worried about swine flu, the Health Department indicates:

Eating pork or pork products cannot spread H1N1 (SO) flu. The most effective way to lower the risk is for people with fever and either cough or sore throat to stay home.

• All New Yorkers should cover their mouths when they cough with their sleeve or a tissue or handkerchief.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
• If you are sick with fever and either a cough or sore throat, stay home for at least 24 hours after all of your symptoms are gone.
• Stay away from clinics and hospitals unless you have severe symptoms, and notify your doctor or the clinic before, or as soon as you arrive, that you have a fever and respiratory systems so that you can be appropriately isolated from others.

School and day care administrators, employers and managers of group living facilities should make sure to do the following to avoid the spread of illness:
• Keep shared spaces clean and well ventilated.
• Group living facilities should separate people who are sick
• Schools and employers should encourage those who are sick to stay at home, but should not require doctors’ notices to let healthy people return.
• Encourage hand washing and the covering of mouths when coughing.

On April 30, the Health Department reported results from a survey conducted with St. Francis Prep students, faculty, and staff. There were 1,996 students (74% response rate) and 210 faculty and staff (85% response rate) who responded to the survey. For the survey, “sick” meant reporting any of the following symptoms “after April 8, 2009: fever AND either cough or sore throat.” Not all students or staff with these reported symptoms have swine flu.

Here are the highlights from the student survey: One third of the surveyed students (33% or 659) have been sick with flu-like symptoms, most of these students became sick between April 22-25, well and sick students reported having family members who are also now sick, and some of the sick students have traveled outside of NYC since April 8th.

Here are the highlights from the staff and faculty survey: One tenth of the surveyed staff members (11% or 23 staff members) have been sick with flu-like symptoms, most of these staff members became sick between April 23-25, well and sick staff reported having family members who are now sick, and some of the staff have traveled outside of NYC since April 8th.

For those who would like more information about managing their stress regarding swine flu, the American Psychological Association has a tip sheet entitled, “Managing Your Anxiety about H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu)” which includes helpful information about talking to your children about swine flu. Among the recommended sources for parents to get updated, accurate information, are the CDC and NYC Department of Health websites.

Stress and Anger about Kindergarten Admissions
Finally, some NYC parents are understandably anxious about where their children will go for kindergarten and are angry at the NYC Department of Education.

As reported recently in the NY Times by Elissa Gootman,

As a growing collection of Manhattan’s most celebrated public elementary schools notify neighborhood parents that their children have been placed on waiting lists for kindergarten slots, middle-class vitriol against the school system — and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — is mounting.

Although, many neighborhood are affected by the waitlists, “the epicenter of the outrage is Manhattan’s District 2, particularly the Upper East Side and the Village, where new condominiums have lured young families. The district’s Community Education Council estimates 400 children are on waiting lists at a dozen schools.”

The NYC Public School Parents Blog recently posted that there will be a rally to protest school overcrowding and the hundreds of kindergarten students who have been placed on waiting lists for next Fall. The rally will take place on the steps of City Hall today, May 6 at 4pm. It is sponsored by: Class Size Matters, Parent Leaders of Upper East Side Schools (PLUS), Public School Parent Advocacy Committee, Manhattan School Overcrowding Task Force, Community Education Council District 2, Manhattan Community Board 2, Manhattan Community Board 1, and PS41/PS3 Waitlisted Parents Group. There is also a new website dedicated to kindergartners who have been shut out of their local schools.

For some families, we gather that the waitlists may become shorter after the gifted and talented (G&T) program announcements are made. According to the NYC DOE, here is a summary of timeline for G&T programs: May 4 (score reports and applications mailed to families); May 7 (G&T online application goes live for entry to grade K/1), May 20 (application deadline), June15 (placement offer letters distributed to families), June 15 (families register at schools).

For parents of kindergarteners who were shut out of the private school admissions process, on the waitlist for public school kindergarten, or who are now moving to NYC, it feels like there are very few options left, besides packing up and leaving NYC. If you plan on moving out of NYC, stay away from England or San Francisco if you want to avoid kindergarten waiting lists.

For parents who still want to go the private school route to kindergarten, there are two new Firm Schools that still are accepting applications. These two schools will open in Fall 2009 and still have rolling admissions:

The first is The Ecole Internationale de New York (Gramercy area):

EINY’s founding team is happy to present you our new French international school that we are opening led by our passion and our unique vision guided by its mission. Our academic curricula and programs are designed for all parents who want their children to succeed in an educational system that gives each child the opportunity to learn different languages and be respectful to the differences and the cultures of the world.

EINY combines:
• the rigor of France’s curriculum;
• American emphasis on independent thinking;
• A small sized school allowing teachers to work closer to each child;
• A comfortable, caring environment; and,
• An international perspective which sees neither France nor the United States as the world’s center.

Our school is the result of years of planning by its founders and supportive parents. It will start as a small school with about 80 students from the age of 3 to 11 (from Nursery trough 5th Grade). EINY is new, but the leadership team has an extensive experience acquired in the French-American international schools, and the teachers are recognized experts. It’s with a great honor and excitement that we invite you to enter our unique school shaped and built for all the children of the world.

The school’s mission:

The Ecole Internationale de New York encourages the success of each student in a diverse, multicultural environment that combines the excellence of French-American academics. It offers students the opportunity to think critically and work independently in multiple educational systems and aspires to develop well-educated, well-rounded, responsible and compassionate world citizens.

The Head of School is Mr. Yves Rivaud and the Director of Admissions is Mr. Clyde Javois:

Since 2003, Yves Rivaud has served as Head of School at Lyceum Kennedy, where he directs and manages the school’s mission, education, pedagogy, professional development, human and educational resources.
Prior positions held include Head of the School at the French-American School of Puget Sound in Seattle, WA, and Director of the French Curriculum and After School Program at the French-American International School in San Francisco, CA.

Clyde Javois served as Director of Admissions and assistant to the Head of School at Lyceum Kennedy for over two years. His responsibilities included overseeing a multicultural staff of fifty, maintaining database on students and prospective parents, reviewing all applications and managing the enrollment process.

The second school with rolling admissions is The Speyer Legacy School (Upper West Side):

The Speyer Legacy School is a new, independent, co-educational K-8 school in Manhattan, established to meet the needs of advanced learners. We seek to revitalize the vision created in 1936 when The Speyer School was established as one of the first programs intended for children with exceptional learning abilities. At The Speyer Legacy School, our modernized adaptation is built around the need not only to facilitate a child’s mastery of the required disciplines, but also to provide our students with ample time and freedom to pursue their particular passions through in-depth study and collaborative work.

The school’s mission:

The mission of The Speyer Legacy School is to provide an optimal environment where advanced learners may realize their full potential in the company of both exceptional classmates and educators who will share and will foster their passion for learning. The pedagogy is designed to meet their needs through both an accelerated and enriched curriculum developed in the Hollingworth tradition. Students will find membership in a community of learning that nurtures scholarship as well as social and emotional development. Central to the school’s mission is the goal of cultivating both intellect and integrity in equal measure.

We expect that students will enter The Speyer Legacy School with a wide range of interests, strengths, challenges and perspectives. It is our goal that they leave more confident and developed in their individuality. The Speyer Legacy School will work to develop and hone their creative and critical thinking skills and instill in each student an enduring love of learning, an ability to engage real-world challenges, and a respect for themselves and the richness and diversity of their own communities.

The Head of School is Ms. Connie Williams Coulianos and the Executive Director is Dr. Esther Kogan:

Connie Williams Coulianos has devoted the past two decades to the education of precocious preschool children, their teachers and parents. Through her work with this population, she has developed the child-responsive curriculum that will serve as the core for the development of The Speyer Legacy School. She has presented various aspects of her work locally, nationally and internationally. She is an award winning teacher who was named Outstanding Preschool Teacher of 2007 by the Blackboard Awards and is featured as one of the top preschool teachers in the nation by Scholastic Magazine. Her 23 years at Hollingworth Preschool at Teachers College Columbia University were recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Blackboard Awards ceremony in June of 2009. Connie holds masters degrees from Indiana University in Vocal Performance and from Teachers College, Columbia University in Early Childhood Education. Her undergraduate studies at Samford University in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama were in music.

Dr. Esther Kogan served as an Associate Professor of Education and Director of the Early Childhood Graduate Program at Adelphi University for the past 10 years. She has been an advocate for children, teachers and parents for the past 20 years with a focus on early childhood, gifted education and bilingual education. She has worked as a teacher trainer, program developer, and educational consultant both in the U.S. and abroad. Dr. Kogan has presented her research at National and International conferences. She is the author of several papers and books. Dr. Kogan earned a Masters degree and a Doctorate in Special Education with specialization in Gifted and Talented Education from Teachers College, Columbia University in 1990 and 1997, respectively, and a B.A. in Psychology from the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City in 1988.

We acknowledge the difficult road ahead in establishing a new school in NYC, particularly in light of our recent focus on the Greenwich Village High School. We commend these two new schools in entering the NYC school landscape.

If you know of other NYC Firm Schools that have rolling admissions for Fall 2009, please inform us in the comments section of this post.

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