KIPP Academy Charter Elementary School
Bronx NY 10451
Challenging charter school in new facility
Some chafe at heavy homework load, no playground equipment
KIPP Academy Elementary School, opened in 2009, has quickly become a sought-after school known for academic success and strong core values. Students chosen in KIPP Academys annual lottery land a spot in a demanding yet nurturing environment where teachers challenge students minds and build good character.
We have a very rigorous approach here, said Founding Principal Carolyn Petruzzielo. The school day is longer, classes begin in August, once-a-month Saturday classes are mandatory, and an hour of daily homework is assigned even on weekends and over holiday breaks. Yet Petruzzielo said she strives for a serene and joyful atmosphere in which kids can excel as they enjoy themselves. Our No. 1 goal is that kids love school, she said.
That goal seems within reach. When we visited on a drizzly fall day, students across all grades seemed to be focused on their work, paying attention to teachers and enjoying their lessons. The school moved into its new building in 2010, a modern, clean, brightly decorated space equipped with the latest technology.
The school is phenomenal, said Thomas Kirby, the father of a 1st-grader. Kirby admits the heavy homework load and occasional Saturday classes can be a strain, but the positives outweigh the negatives, he said. At the end of the day, I wouldnt trade it for anything.
KIPP Academy is located in the southwest corner of the sprawling Mott Haven Educational Campus. The elementary school takes up all five floors of a wing that has its own cafeteria and gym, so KIPPs youngsters have little contact with high school students elsewhere in the campus. (The exception is at recess, when the football field becomes a shared play space because the campus has no playground equipment. Cones placed at the 50 yard line keep high school kids on their half of the field, but young ears inevitably hear the teens curse words.)
During our visit, classrooms were typically busy places where students sat in assigned floor spots quietly listening to teachers, or huddled in small groups completing assignments. All kindergarten and 1st-grade classes have two teachers. Students also learn music, dance and yoga from a diverse faculty that includes a number of male teachers.
The school enforces a strict discipline policy based on values that spell out SPROUT: serenity, pride, respect, optimism, understand and take a risk. (The latter touches everything from trying new foods to making new friends.) Their character is essential for them to be successful academically, Petruzzielo said. What Petruzzielo describes as a combination of love and logic keeps classrooms orderly. Students who act out are often placed in a thinking chair, where they are asked to think about their behavior and choices. Obstinate students might sit for hours in the principals office reconsidering disruptive actions. Its a place where they reflect. Its not a place for punishment, Petruzzielo said. Our real push is for the kids to do the thinking themselves.
KIPP Academy is part of the nationwide KIPP network. Students selected to attend KIPP Academy may attend the KIPP Academy middle school (which starts in 5th grade) and then on to KIPP NYC College Prep High School.
Special education: The two-teacher system for kindergarten and 1st grade is designed to make extra help available for young students with special needs. In the other grades, students can get occupational therapy, physical therapy and other support services as needed, both inside and outside the classroom.
Admissions: KIPP enrolls approximately 90 kindergartners each year. Younger siblings of enrolled KIPP students get priority. Second priority goes to students in District 7 who qualify for free or reduced lunch. In recent years, more than 300 students met this second criteria, so a lottery is held every April to determine which students may attend. (Skip Card, December 2012)