Notes on camp

March 9th Camp FairBy George Hunka

Even though it’s the end of February, summer will be here before we know it — and it’s time to start looking for summer camp. You can get some help by attending the upcoming New York Family Camp Fair on Sunday, March 9, at the World Class Learning Academy, 44 East 2nd Street (between First and Second Avenues).

The fair, which will be held from noon to 3.00pm, will gather dozens of camp directors from both local day camps and sleepaway camps from across the region. Sponsored with the American Camp Association/New York and New Jersey, the fair is a fantastic and free resource for helping parents identify camps that would be a good match for their children.

What’s more, families who RSVP and attend the fair will be entered to win a week-long vacation at the Mount Snow Family Camp in Vermont, or an iPad, courtesy of Digital Media Academy.

Visit today to register for this event. More information can be found in this flyer.


Running for PS 150

By Cesar Kastoun

IMG_2232 IMG_2234-2

Dear all,

My daughter (Nour, Grade 4) and my son (Gebran, Grade 2) are running their first-ever race this coming Sunday. It’s a 5k organized by NY Road Runners.

They have been training hard and would like to use this opportunity to raise money for P.S. 150.

Any amount ($1, $5, $10, etc) will help.

Link to the school’s donation page is below. You can easily pay with a credit card or Paypal. For US tax residents, it’s tax-deductible. For non US tax residents, you can email me or message me with your committed amount. I’ll pay on your behalf and you can send me the money.

If you donate directly, please let me know or mention our last name (Kastoun) in your donation.

A big thank you for your generosity.

Link to PS 150’s donation page:


A downtown baby boom

By George Hunka

If the Department of Education doesn’t address the overcrowding of downtown schools soon, it may find the problem growing exponentially worse in just the next few years, says a member of State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s School Crowding Task Force in today’s issue of The Broadsheet.

Tribeca resident and task force member Eric Greenleaf has run the numbers in a new Department of Health and Mental Hygiene report and says that projected population growth below Canal Street will put more strain on an already overburdened school system. Birth rates to downtown families jumped over ten percent from 2011 to 2012, he reports, and there’s no sign that the growth will abate anytime soon.

Matthew Fenton’s report continues:

While the growing ranks of residents are one sign of Lower Manhattan’s vitality, the numbers are also worrisome. “Kids born in 2012 will be going to kindergarten in 2017,” says Mr. Greenleaf. “We’ve known for years that we’re facing a shortage of school seats, but this makes the deficit more drastic than before. And it may be even worse than it looks, because these numbers are for 2012. When you consider the dozens of new apartment towers recently built or converted in Lower Manhattan, it seems reasonable to assume that even more young families will move here and had children in 2013.”

“Right now,” Mr. Greenleaf says, “we have a combined kindergarten capacity in all Lower Manhattan public schools of 400 seats per year.” When the Peck Slip School (now under construction in the South Street Seaport neighborhood) opens, “that capacity will expand to 475.” When another new school (plans for which were recently announced by the Department of Education, but no site for which has been found thus far) opens, “we’ll have a total capacity of 550 kindergarten seats, assuming the school has three classes per grade. But a site would have to be found for that school in the next two months for it to open in 2017, and the chances of that seem pretty remote.”

Mr. Greenleaf projects that if 60 percent of the Lower Manhattan children born in 2012 try to attend kindergarten in 2017 (a consensus estimate used by statisticians), “we’ll need 715 seats. And even the new school they haven’t sited yet won’t get us to that number.”

The full story can be found in the Broadsheet here.

A wink and a nod?

By George Hunka

Downtown parents hoping that the de Blasio administration would take a new approach to alleviating overcrowding in their local public schools were disappointed to read a February 4 Tribeca Trib story by Carl Glassman, “New Administration’s School Building Plan Dashes Hopes for Lower Manhattan.”

“On Jan. 31, the Department of Education, under its new chancellor, Carmen Fariña, announced revisions to the Bloomberg administration’s plan that it says will go further, citywide, in easing classroom crowding and expanding pre-kindergarten seats. But hopes that additional downtown school seats would be included, beyond the 456 in the original capital plan, were dashed by this latest version,” Glassman wrote.

Paul Hovitz, co-chair of Community Board 1’s Youth and Education Committee, said that he and other advocates believe that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver may be able to persuade the DOE to once again revisit the plan. Silver has already written a letter to Fariña that requests a meeting with the chancellor and calls on the city to reconsider its allocation of new school seats below Canal Street. “I strongly urge that the DOE amend its capital plan so that we have 1,000 seats sited in this community,” he wrote.

This isn’t the first time that hopes have been dashed for a more comprehensive approach to schools covered by Community Board 1, Glassman notes:

The first version of the capital plan, which details how the city proposes to allocate funds for building and repairing schools over five years, had provided for a new 456-seat school below Canal Street. That was a shock to some Downtown school advocates who had expected nearly 1,000 seats within the area covered by Community Board 1, which has a northern boundary of Canal Street.

“We were all given a wink and a nod that those seats would be sited in Community Board 1,” Hovitz said.

Concerned parents are already planning a strategy to express their disappointment more forcefully to the DOE and the de Blasio administration. For more information, read the full Tribeca Trib story here.

Project Cicero

project_cicero_logoBy George Hunka

If your children’s bookshelves are beginning to fill to overflowing, you’re in luck. PS 150 will be collecting books for Project Cicero from March 4 through March 7.

According to the project’s Web site, “Project Cicero is an annual non-profit book drive designed to create and and supplement classroom libraries in under-resourced New York City public schools. Since its inception in 2001, Project Cicero has distributed more two million new and gently used books to more than 11,000 New York City classrooms and school libraries, reaching over 500,000 students. We receive donations from more than 100 independent, public, and parochial schools each year, and also receive generous contributions from many publishers.”

What kinds of books are wanted?  New and gently used hardcover and paperback books for children and young adults, including picture books, early readers, reference books, test prep, fiction, nonfiction and biographies.

What kinds of books aren’t wanted? Textbooks, adult books, library discards, or reference books more than five years old.

Why not make it a project over the midwinter break to sit down with your kids and weed out those shelves — and distribute the unwanted books to those in need? It’s a great way to make room for more. But please wait until March 4 before bringing them to PS 150, which will have no place to store them until then.

Spring auction details!

auction_posterBy George Hunka

It’ll be “Going, going, gone!” when the PS 150 Annual Spring Auction takes place on Sunday, March 30th, 2014, from 6.30-9.30pm at Sarabeth’s restaurant, 339 Greenwich Street at the corner of Jay Street! For those who have never attended, this is one of the school’s most important fundraisers and certainly a favorite among parents. The event is an unforgettable evening of delicious food, wine, music, and friends.

Tickets are now on sale at the school office, and you can take advantage of a Valentine’s Day Specialtwo tickets for $60. The special is only available through February 14th, so act now — after Valentine’s Day, tickets will be $40 each and $60 at the door.

sarabethsSoliciting donations is the biggest part of making the auction a success. Parents and friends of PS 150 are asked to get creative, and call upon venues they frequent and friends they know to donate. Items vary from fine art to facials, vacation homes and hotel stays, to sports events and birthday packages. There’s something for everyone’s wallet — the value of the items ranges from $25 to thousands of dollars, the most sought-after being the student art projects, a collaborative piece made by the children in each classroom. These precious, one-of-a-kind gems spark a bidding frenzy that highlights the night.

The money raised at the auction goes to fund many of the school’s enrichment programs, including art, music, movement, science, technology, and literacy support — all the things that make PS 150 so special and the children’s experiences unforgettable.

To learn more, contact Gildren or Rebecca, or check the PS 150 calendar for the next meeting time. Auction forms and letters can be found on the PS 150 website. The deadline for submitting donations is Monday, March 10th.

And if you’re afraid you’ll be stuck with the kids that night, you’re in luck! Babysitting details for the event will be available soon.

Starts this week: The Family Storytelling Project

Bill Gordh. Photo: John K. Kraus.

Bill Gordh. Photo: John K. Kraus.

By George Hunka

How we perceive, remember and tell our own stories help us define who we are. … Sharing these stories builds our community.
Bill Gordh

Reserve a morning or afternoon this Saturday, February 8, for a workshop with famed storyteller Bill Gordh. For more than ten years, Bill has inspired kids and their families with stories from around the world. He’ll share his own stories while inspiring and guiding you and your children to recall and retell your own family stories — whether it’s a narrative passed down through the generations, a simple tale of kindness, or a funny vacation story. He’ll help you and your family find the words to tell your tale and the images to create a poster that illustrates your family story.

On Thursday, February 13, we’ll all gather at the IPN Community Center for the PS 150 Family Storytelling Evening. Over a pot-luck dinner, you’ll have the chance to share your story with other participants and see the art/story posters.

Bill has been a treasured part of PS 150 for the past four years — if you’re a veteran storytelling participant or a newcomer, you’ll be more than welcome, and no preparation is necessary! To register for the workshop, contact Lisa Midyette at — and look in your email box and your children’s backpacks for more information.