Spruce Street School Family Handbook 2014-2015
(this version has been transposed to be searchable through the Search bar)
Welcome to Spruce Street!
We are proud to welcome families to the 2014-2015 school year at Spruce Street. As we head into this
upcoming school year, we have so much to look forward to. Our founding group of students are advancing forward into 5th-grade, and we continue to welcome many new families to our Pre-K and kindergarten classes. Our staff has grown to include nearly 50 educators and administrative/support staff. As in years past, we are so proud of the talented, dynamic adults who will work to actualize Spruce Street’s vision for your children.
Our school is a product of Lower Manhattan’s resilience and community advocacy. We know that resilience and community spirit was put to the test last year, and we are proud to have rebounded so strongly. This year we welcome back our remaining families, as well as dozens of new families in all grades. Each of you plays an important role in crafting and maintaining our school community. As a school grounded in the uniqueness of Lower Manhattan, we do not underestimate the endless supply of inspiration your families provide. This month, we opened the doors to our incredible school building. We are humbled and excited by the chance to lead Spruce Street and work alongside you and your children.
Nancy Harris and Hillary Casado
Address and Phone Number
Spruce Street School
12 Spruce Street
New York, NY 10038
Main Office: 212-266-4800
Grades K-5: 8:15 a.m.-2:35 p.m.
Full Day Pre-K: 8:20 a.m.-2:40 p.m.
Pre-kindergarten morning session: 8:20-10:50 a.m.
Pre-kindergarten afternoon session: 12:10-2:40 p.m.
Inclement weather may result in delayed opening, early dismissal, or school closing. Radio and television stations carry this news as soon as decisions are made. School closings are also posted on the New York City Department of Education’s website (http://schools.nyc.gov), or you can call 311.
Please note, we will send weekly updates for families, including grade-wide and school-specific events. Please check our website on an ongoing basis.
Spruce Street School Vision Statement
The Spruce Street School transforms the youngest members of our local community into active members of our global community. We believe that learning is an engaging and authentic process for students and adults. Spruce Street values curiosity and inquiry in an organic, purposeful way. We believe that the community plays a crucial and inspiring role in the learning of every member of our school. We envision Spruce Street graduates confidently entering the greater community and contributing to our shared future.
Spruce Street School Mission Statement
The mission of Spruce Street is to create cohesive, student-centered learning opportunities across all grades. By actively and authentically studying our surroundings, we will interpret and learn from our pasts, en route to shaping our shared future. Teachers immerse students in engaging, high-level curricula, while simultaneously nurturing them to be empathetic and independent. Our school environment reflects and enhances these beliefs. Students, staff, and families in the Spruce Street community are reflective, inquisitive, and community-minded problem-solvers.
Teaching and Learning at Spruce Street
We are constantly striving to provide an educationally sound and stimulating environment at Spruce Street. This section outlines many of the curricular offerings and special programs that will shape the educational lives of Spruce Street’s kindergarten classrooms. More specific information will be shared during Curriculum Night in mid-September.
Our instructional philosophy is that learning is an active process. To that end, Spruce students will have multiple opportunities and experiences to deepen their understanding of grade level content and concepts. In each classroom, children have extended periods of inquiry-based study. This in-depth, conceptual approach is balanced with direct instruction of skills and strategies. Through this approach, children acquire skills and knowledge they need to be successful in kindergarten and beyond. Teachers continually work to map curriculum, plan units, and develop sequential lessons across content areas.
Our curricular approach is fully aligned to all Common Core Standards. Teachers work together to explore existing curriculum materials, and create and revise units of study with our students and community in mind. Literacy is at the core of all learning at Spruce Street, including reading, writing, listening, and speaking. On a daily basis, students participate in a rich, balanced literacy program. This includes Reading and Writing Workshop, where students learn strategies and skills, as well as opportunities to practice. Some key components of our literacy program include shard reading, read aloud, guided reading, independent reading, interactive writing, and word study. Each class reads and writes across a variety of genres, and studies famous authors as mentors. Literacy is infused into every part of the day, and children learn natural connections between literacy and other content areas.
Research forms the foundation of all our units, driving forwards our choices across the weeks and months. Our classrooms participate in several investigative studies throughout the year. Each study lasts 10-16 weeks, and allows students to explore one idea in depth, becoming experts. When participating in studies, students engage in fieldwork, sketching, interviewing, and reading to learn all about a topic. This year’s studies include a study of Five Senses, our school, Families and Community Workers, Markets, New Amsterdam/NYC History, World Cultures, American Revolution, Immigration, etc.
To rise to the expectations set forth by the Common Core, we follow a balanced approach to mathematics instruction. As a framework, our teachers use Investigations Mathematics, a comprehensive, concept-based curriculum. Students explore materials, learn math strategies, recognize math in their world, and become curious, capable mathematicians. To supplement, each grade also engages in several higher-level units including those from Contexts for Learning. Each class has a daily math workshop, and engages in ongoing math routines – such as Number Talks.
As we all continue to dive more deeply into the Common Core Standards, we continue to revise and deepen our curriculum units. We will continue to post information on our website, helping families access and understand our
planned curriculum. While these shifts are predominantly relevant to math and literacy instruction, we encourage families to understand these changes in a holistic way.
Science is a natural extension of a child’s curiosity! Spruce Street students have science each week. They learn observation, research, and questioning skills, and study physical, earth, and life science units over the course of the year. Science is connected to classrooms as well, and students have additional opportunities to explore the scientific world within our school and local community.
This year our arts program is robust with creativity and variety. Classes will experience a range of arts opportunities via weekly classes taught by Spruce Street educators, as well as from outside programs and residencies. A complete listing of the 2014-15 programs and residencies can be found below.
Teachers at Spruce Street use a variety of assessment tools to monitor student learning. We value understanding each child academically, emotionally, and socially. To that end, we use both formal and informal means of assessment to revise our teaching practices to adapt to your children. Tracking student performance and progress is an important component of the school. Teachers compile student work portfolios that demonstrate both performance and progress over the course of the school year and, eventually, over the course of several years at Spruce Street.
Beginning in Grade 3, all children will participate in the New York State English Language Arts and Math exams. These exams take place in April. Exact dates and more specific information – including ways to support children in preparing for these tests – will be shared throughout the year.
We are committed to supporting all children in their journey towards academic success. Virtually every part of the day affords teachers the chance to work with small-groups and individuals. This model of instruction means we constantly adapt to meet your child’s needs. There are numerous opportunities for differentiation – children read books on a variety of levels, engage in a variety of math games, etc. Children with a range of academic strengths work together and receive the support they need while in class. This happens in every classroom every day.
As a public school, we are committed to serving and supporting all children in our community. Special Education is a service – not a place/class. Learners sometimes need additional support. Some students have entered our school with Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s). These plans call for a range of services including team teaching, SETSS, speech, occupational therapy, counseling, and physical therapy. Teachers are provided access to IEP’s as per federal guidelines. If a child’s IEP mandates related services, we work with the Department of Education and the child’s family to provide accommodations.
Spruce Street also has several pathways for children who need additional academic support. We hold Special Education Team Meetings to continually discuss our IEP caseload, as well as PPT Meetings to discuss children exhibiting
at-risk social/academic behavior. During September, teachers receive specific referral procedures that are aligned to Response to Intervention initiatives. These procedures will allow us to create targeted small-groups that address Tier II intervention needs across the school.
Families will receive more information about these programs once the year begins.
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)
As a school community, we are committed to supporting students in their social and emotional growth. Aligned with the mission and vision of our school, students and adults play an active role in this social/emotional work, from curriculum development, to family involvement, to conflict resolution. This area of work is the perfect opportunity to truly be reflective, inquisitive, and community-minded problem-solvers.
We are fortunate to have a full-time guidance counselor, Sarah Maiolo, to lead this work. Sarah’s work and schedule are aligned to the needs of the students/school. She works directly with individual children, small-groups, as well as entire classes. She also runs a series of workshops devoted to social and emotional development. Please see our Behavior Handbook for additional information.
Spruce Street adheres to The Chancellor’s Discipline Code, which is distributed to families and available online. We implement appropriate consequences and guidance interventions to positively shape behavior.
While we take a supportive, developmentally appropriate approach to discipline, there are also clear boundaries and consequences for children. We have a set of guidelines for our shared spaces, including the cafeteria, yard, stairwells, hallways, and bathroom. Teachers also manage their classrooms in a way that balances nurturing with structure. Children and families are active partners in maintaining a safe and lively learning environment. Please see our Behavior Handbook for additional information.
Report Cards/Parent Teacher Conferences
We distribute student work/goal feedback during November and March conferences, and more formal report cards in January and June. Our report cards reflect Common Core Standards and grade-level expectations, combining qualitative and quantitative reporting to families. There are many opportunities throughout the year for teachers and families to engage in dialogue about children. Report cards and conferences are two formalized vehicle for these conversations to be documented. The goal of a parent-teacher conference is to support children through the ever- important home/school connection. By collaborating with families, teachers gain valuable insight, and vice versa. The goal is not for families to feel anxious, confused, or defensive! Please see the calendar for dates of parent teacher conferences, and be on the lookout for additional information throughout the year. Sample report cards and accompanying documents will be available on our website later in the fall.
Spruce Street holds many curriculum workshops throughout the year. We will continue to offer a range of other academic workshops, including those around standardized testing, supporting children with learning to read, etc.
This year, we are building on a successful model where families are invited into classrooms to both hear from teachers AND learn alongside their children.
We will host a range of workshops for families to discuss curricular topics, social emotional development, and the middle school process. Beginning in October, we will hold a series of recurring, classroom-based learning opportunities.
The dates for this year’s Learning Alongside your Child are:
Grade teams will agree upon a range of topics for each date and distribute the calendar to families at Curriculum Night.
We are fortunate to have several partnership programs with community-based organizations and institutes of higher learning. National Dance Institute (NDI) partners with all 1st-5th grade classes for a residency program. We are currently seeking a movement/performing/visual arts cycles for Pre-K and K students that supplement what our school- based program is able to provide. We also have a partnership with New York University and Pace University, which provides a connection between Spruce and emerging educators. These partnerships are designed to enhance what Spruce Street stands for, and to forge new connections between school and community.
Daily Life at Spruce Street
Each day of school includes numerous events and transitions. This section outlines a day in our school from start to finish, with pertinent information regarding policies and procedures.
Understanding our School Space
Our school is housed in a state-of-the-art facility at the base of a residential skyscraper in the heart of Lower Manhattan. Our school entrance is on William Street, opposite the entrance to NY Downtown Hospital. Our school building includes ample classroom spaces and a variety of specialty spaces. We have access to a rooftop playspace, auditorium, library, gymnasium, science lab, art studio, music suite, and ground-level cafeteria. As amazing as our building is, we do have quite limited space to gather on the ground floor.
For safety reasons, strollers, hot beverages, dogs and scooters are not permitted inside the school. Your cooperation is required and appreciated.
We share space with P94, a District 75 program for children with special needs. When appropriate, our students and staff collaborate and coordinate shared activities. Although the building houses space for the hospital and 900+ apartments, we do not cross paths with non-DOE employees or residents.
Our school is located on a public plaza. There is often active construction, visitors entering and exiting the adjacent hospital lobby, etc. therefore, it is imperative and the responsibility of parents and caregivers to actively supervise children at all times.
There are no restrooms for adults to use in our lobby.
William Street Plaza
This plaza is used for many purposes, by many members of the public. Each day, there are a myriad of tourists, hospital visitors, Pace students, protestors, and others – all mixed among Spruce families. In addition, this space is an active construction zone for the soon-to-be parking garage. In cooperation with the hospital and residential building, here are some additional safety measures we are putting into place:
We sometimes see children arriving at school alone. Children should be escorted to the front entrance by an adult. If you are in a car on Spruce Street, or walking along Beekman, do not send your child alone to the front door. Better to leave your car unattended for 60 seconds than leaving your child unattended. This does not apply to older children who have permission to self-dismiss.
Half-Day Pre-K - Arrival and Dismissal Procedures
Parents/guardians/caregivers will be welcomed each day for arrival and dismissal by a Spruce Street Staff member.
The entrance for Pre-K is located on the south side of the main entrance marked “Spruce Street Pre-K.” Doors open for Pre-K arrival at 8:20 a.m. (12:10 p.m. for afternoon Pre-K).
Parents/guardians/caregivers escort their children directly to their pre-kindergarten classrooms, using Staircase D. For safety reasons, strollers, hot beverages, dogs and scooters are not permitted inside the school. Your cooperation is required and appreciated. After dropping children off, adults must exit the building via our main lobby.
Dismissal for Pre-K takes place from 10:40-10:50 a.m. (2:30-2:40 p.m. for afternoon Pre-K). Parents/guardians/ caregivers wait outside until a staff member opens the marked Pre-K door. All children must shake hands with their teacher each day before leaving. Parents/guardians must be close enough to make eye contact with the teacher. These routines promote safety and the relationship between adults and students. Although dismissal can be a good time to check in with teachers, please refrain from having in-depth conversations with teachers until all students are dismissed. It is important for teachers to concentrate on dismissing all children to their proper adults. Once you have picked your child up, please exit the building. If you are involved in conversation with other parents, please exit and congregate on the outside plaza.
Students and families are not permitted back into the building after dismissal for any reason (including water, restrooms, forgotten items, etc).
It is important for parents/caregivers to be on time for dismissal. Children not picked up by 10:50 a.m./2:40 p.m., are escorted to the main office by school staff. Late parents/caregivers must enter at the main entrance of the building and sign the late log.
Arrival for Pre-Kindergarten (Full-Day) – 5th grade
At 8:20 a.m., parents/guardians/caregivers escort their children directly to their pre-kindergarten classrooms, using our main lobby. For safety reasons, strollers, hot beverages, dogs and scooters are not permitted inside the school. Family cooperation is required and appreciated. After dropping children off, adults must exit the building via our main lobby.
For families wishing to escort their children to the classroom, doors open for kindergarten arrival at 8:15 a.m. Once entering the building, families will be directed up our main stairwell to their assigned classrooms. Kindergarten teachers will greet families in the hallway and welcome them into their classrooms.
Kindergarten families can opt to drop their children off for early arrival and/or breakfast. Parents/guardians should say goodbye outside the front door, where students will be directed into the cafeteria. Spruce staff will accompany K students who arrive for early drop-off to their classroom at 8:20 a.m.
(Please note: Later in September, all K families will drop children off at the main door. Students will gather in the cafeteria where teachers will meet them for line-up. We’ll notify families before this change.)
Grades 1st through 5th
Doors open for general arrival at 7:50 a.m. Parents drop children off at the front entrance, as we have a variety of staff members supervising the stairwells and auditorium during arrival.
At 8:10 a.m. staff will line-up and escort students in 1st through 3rd grades to the auditorium and to their designated row. Students in 4th and 5th grades will proceed directly up Staircase D to their classrooms.
At 8:15 a.m., classroom teachers greet children in the hallways/auditorium, and escort their students up to the classroom.
In case of inclement weather, parents will follow standard drop-off/arrival procedures. We do not have space
in our lobby for parents and caregivers to wait with children during inclement weather.
Any child who arrives after the bell rings at 8:20 a.m. will receive a yellow late pass, and will be marked late.
Families arriving late are required to enter the lobby and sign the Late Log at the front desk, documenting the time of arrival. Late children are provided with a Late Pass and depending on grade, may be escorted to class by Spruce Street staff.
Teachers take official attendance each day in the morning. This attendance is a legal document, and is tracked throughout the years. It is imperative that children are on time for school each day. When children arrive late, it often sets up a ripple effect, preventing them from seamlessly transitioning into the school day. Late students also have a disruptive impact on the remainder of students in the class who have arrived on time and have started their day.
Attendance is essential to your child’s success in school and is part of New York City’s promotional criteria for all grades. Absences and latenesses are documented and part of your child’s report card and educational record. Children need to be present in order to learn, and in order for educators to assess what they’ve learned.
Any student with more than 10% absence/lateness rate or who present patterns of absences/latenesses will be discussed at our school’s monthly attendance meetings will receive an attendance letter. Additional supports and interventions will be used as needed, and are listed below:
Families are encouraged to report absences via the online link on our website. Families may also continue to call the main office – 212-266-4800 ext. 0 – by 9:00 a.m. on the day of each absence. Please do not email us about absences! If calling before school hours, please leave a detailed message on our voicemail. If you know in advance your child is going to be absent (an appointment, etc.), please send in a note to the main office or your child’s teacher, or share this information via our website link. In case of illness, please submit an absent note and/or doctor’s note upon returning.
Families are strongly encouraged to use the DOE calendar for guidance when planning personal vacations. We are unable to provide homework packets or make-up work for children who are on vacation at alternate times of the year. Unauthorized absences and vacations have a tremendous impact your child’s education. These situations can be very difficult for children to acclimate back into daily life at school. Since much of our curriculum is project-based, it is quite challenging for children to “make-up” missed assignments.
Dismissal for Pre-Kindergarten (Full-Day) – 5th grade
We will invite families into the building at 2:30 p.m. for our dismissal period. A Spruce Street staff member (usually Nancy) will open the doors to signal the beginning of dismissal. Families who are unable to enter the building and follow standard dismissal procedures (e.g. a medical condition that prevents you from walking up the stairs, or a sleeping child in a stroller) have several options. We will bring any students who have not been picked up down to the main office. If you are unable to pick your child up, simply meet them in the main office after the crowd thins out. Another helpful tip is to befriend a classmate’s parent so you can trade off pick-up duty and watching sleeping children on the plaza.
All children must shake hands with their teacher each day before leaving. Parents/guardians must be close enough to make eye contact with the teacher. These routines promote safety and the relationship between adults and students. Although dismissal can be a good time to check in with teachers, we ask parents to refrain from having in- depth conversations with teachers until all students are dismissed. It is important for teachers to concentrate on dismissing all children to their proper adults.
We understand some children participate in a variety of activities. It is essential that families fill out and submit the dismissal form, so we are aware which activities take place on which day, etc. If your child is participating in Manhattan Youth’s afterschool program, teachers dismiss them to a Manhattan Youth counselor inside the school building. Children assigned to be bused home will be escorted by a staff member to the bus.
Once you have picked your child up, please exit the building. This will help the crowd thin out and allow teachers better lines of sight. If you are involved in conversation with other parents, please exit and continue your conversation outside the school.
Pre-K (Full Day) and Kindergarten
Each Pre-K and K family receives two Spruce Street dismissal passes at the beginning of the school year. Parents/ guardians are required to show this I.D. to staff in the lobby each day before picking children up from their 2nd floor classrooms. Any adult without a pass will be required to wait in the lobby for dismissal to end and late children to be brought downstairs.
Grades 1 through 5
Students are dismissed from the cafeteria. Once you have picked up your child, please exit the building. This will help the crowd thin out and allow teachers better lines of sight.
Our school is located on a public plaza. We have no control over the happenings outside the building. It is imperative and the responsibility of parents and caregivers to actively supervise children at all times.
For all families - It is important for parents/caregivers to be on time for dismissal. Children not picked up by 2:40 p.m., are escorted to the main office by school staff. Late parents/caregivers must then enter the building and sign the late log. For safety reasons, strollers, hot beverages, dogs and scooters are not permitted inside the school. Your cooperation is required and appreciated.
If you have arranged a playdate for your child, or for them to be picked up by a different friend/family member than you’ve indicated, you must submit a note to your child’s teacher via the blue folder. Please do not fax or email same-day changes in dismissal plans. We do not always receive these changes in time.
Children leaving early due to appointments and/or emergencies must be picked up by 2:15 p.m. Please send in a note to your child’s teacher – so that the child can be prepared to leave class as discreetly as possible. Parents may not proceed directly to classrooms when picking children up early. Adults must sign them out via our main office.
No early pick-ups from 2:15-2:35 p.m. Our main office is unable to call and coordinate early dismissal during these times.
On half-days throughout the year, including those for Parent-Teacher Conferences and Clerical Half-days, the schedule is as follows:
On half-days, teachers remain with their classes during lunch. This means whichever teacher – classroom or cluster – assigned to the class during the modified lunch time is there to supervise. Classroom teachers are responsible for dismissing their classes at 11:30 a.m. on half-days.
We have a really tight schedule on half-days – thank you for being on-time (not early and not late).
Bus Transportation (K-2)
Children who live more than one half mile from Spruce Street are eligible for free bus service. School bus service will begin approximately two-three weeks after the school year begins. Qualifying families will be notified directly about routes, times, and the commencement of service.
Children riding the bus are not allowed to alter their destinations. Play dates are not allowed on the school bus. If you wish to alter this plan, for any reason, a note signed by a parent or caregiver must be given to both the office and the teacher clearly stating the change in plans. We must have this information in writing. Do not fax or email changes in dismissal plans. We do not always receive these changes in time. Please note, we cannot accept phone calls regarding changes in bus plans except in an extreme emergency.
Children confuse days and times very easily: we cannot rely on the children to recall accurately the days they are not supposed to ride the bus. Do not wait until 2:30 p.m. to inform us that your child is not riding the bus – dismissal is too hectic and the message may not get through!
If your child is to be met at the bus by a new/unfamiliar person, please send the appropriate information including the name of the person in writing. The note will be given to the bus driver who will ask to see photo ID before releasing your child to this person.
If, for any reason, an adult is not waiting at a bus stop for a child, the driver is instructed to bring the child back to the school after finishing the bus route. Parents will be notified at once and will be expected to pick the child up from school immediately.
Some children riding the school bus in the morning may arrive too late for breakfast. Please provide breakfast at home. If for any reason the school bus is late, your child will not be marked late for that day.
Snack (Pre-K – 1st Grade)
Snack is served each day, usually during mid-morning. Since our lunchtime is mid-day, we understand that young children become hungry! Families in each class sign-up for a snack calendar in the beginning of the school year. Class parents coordinate a snack calendar, manage snack sign-up and serve as the liaison between families and the classroom teacher. During those assigned days, we ask each family to provide snack for their child’s class. This alleviates having to remember each day, and provides a more communal, collaborative atmosphere for our classrooms.
Snack includes time for students to drink water, and students should bring in reusable cups to fill in the classroom
sinks. Juice or other beverages should not be sent in. In most classrooms, children have access to snack independently as they work.
Our indicators that a snack works well for a class are pretty basic – healthy, individually packaged, and fulfilling. Students should be able to open packages independently, and classrooms will not have access to refrigerators, microwaves, or utensils on a daily basis. To that end, we have developed a list of recommended snacks we find work well in our classrooms, and a list of snacks that don’t. Please use this list as a guide:
Recommended Snacks: raisins, Pirate’s/Veggie Booty, bananas, apples, animal crackers, mini pretzels, rice cakes, mini cheese crackers (e.g. Goldfish), cereal bars, granola bars, graham crackers, string cheese.
In our experience, these snacks do not work well: popcorn, chips, fruit snacks, applesauce, yogurt, cookies. Children with allergies or other unique dietary needs should bring in an individual snack.
Breakfast and Lunch (Grades K-5 only)
Breakfast is available daily in the cafeteria, and is free for all students. We begin serving breakfast at 7:50 a.m., and any student wishing to eat breakfast must arrive before 8:05 a.m.
All families may participate in the school lunch program. Meals are provided through the Office of School Food on a daily basis. Families can access the lunch menu by selecting the K-8 Lunch Menu via this web link: http://www.opt- osfns.org/schoolfood/public1/menu_select.aspx. Families may also send their children with a packed lunch from home,
(glass containers are not permitted). Students do not have access to a refrigerator or microwave, and should be able to carry, open and eat their own lunch. Adult assistance is available, but we encourage student independence as much as is feasible.
Each family fills out a lunch form in the beginning of the year to determine eligibility for free/reduced lunch. It is important that all families complete this form, even if you don’t plan on participating in the school lunch program, or if you don’t believe you qualify. School lunch forms are tied to state and federal funding, and we will reach out more about this in the beginning of the year. Nancy Chen-Rios coordinates lunch payment with families. We offer several payment options, including pre-payment for an entire year, and billing for several months at a time.
Here is the timeline for lunch/recess:
11:15 a.m.-12:05 p.m.:
Pre-K (full-day) eat and play in classroom – recess/outdoor play will take at a different point in the day Kindergarten has recess first, then lunch.
1st/2nd grade has lunch first, then recess.
* This year, each 1st and 2nd grade class will play and eat with the kindergarteners for a period of two months. This will help evenly distribute classes and promote leadership among 1st and 2nd graders. The schedule will be as follows:
4th and 5th grades have recess first, then lunch.
3rd grade has lunch first, then recess.
We will begin recess clubs for 3rd-5th graders, such as library and art club, later in September.
Recess/Outdoor Physical Activity
Recess is an important time for children to recharge, socialize, and practice good habits around physical well- being. Each day, students spend a block of time playing outdoors before or after eating lunch. Here, they have a chance to run, play, use their imaginations, and socialize with friends from other classes. Students are supervised by various Spruce Street staff, as we remain committed to safety at all times throughout the school day.
It is important that children are dressed appropriately for daily, outdoor physical activity. Please send your child with comfortable shoes every day of the year – no flip flops are permitted. This will allow your child to participate in recess each day. As the weather changes throughout the year, we will continue to play outside. In general, we play outside unless it is steadily raining, snowing, or frigidly cold. We ensure children are bundled up with mittens, hats, and any other items you send in. In the event of inclement weather, students play in the gymnasium where a variety of educational and fun activities will be provided.
All pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classrooms are equipped with student bathrooms. Students in Grades 1 through 4 have access to bathrooms on floors 3 and 4. There are also age-appropriate bathrooms located adjacent to the rooftop yard and the cafeteria. Children have access to these bathrooms throughout the day. Classroom teachers set-up and practice bathroom routines with children in the beginning of the year.
We ask that each family send in a change of clearly marked clothes for their child in September. This is essential in the event of bathroom-related accidents. As the year progresses, families may need to replenish this change of clothes, as items are used or grown out of.
We ask families to support independence in children when it comes to bathroom procedures. This includes making sure your child uses the bathroom before arriving at school, and wearing clothes that they can remove, unbutton, and re-fasten on their own.
Adults may never enter or use student bathrooms, including those in the cafeteria, hallways, or classrooms.
Safety and Security
Safety is our number one priority. We appreciate all families’ cooperation with DOE and Spruce Street safety guidelines. Our building is fully equipped with surveillance cameras in all stairwells, corridors, and outdoor/public spaces. We have a school-based safety committee that meets monthly, as well as a formal safety plan on record with the DOE and NYPD.
We conduct a series of fire and safety drills throughout the school year to help students and teachers practice evacuation procedures. These are not meant to scare children or families, but meant to make sure we all know what to do and where to go in case of emergency. Teachers and other staff members work with children to make sure they understand the rules during a fire drill, and the safety precautions we all must take. More information is shared during our September Orientation.
Contacting the School
If you need to contact the school for any reason, please call our main office at 212-266-4800. Once you reach our office, you can leave a message for Nancy Harris or any other staff member. If you are visiting the school and need to stop by, our main office is located in the lobby in Room 104. When visiting the school, all parents/visitors must sign-in with our School Safety Agents – a photo ID is required to sign-in.
Classroom Policies and Procedures
This section outlines many of the other events that will take place in our classrooms. We thank you in advance for respecting our school ‘s policies.
Birthdays and Holidays
Birthdays are special days for our students. We invite families to donate a favorite read aloud to their child’s classroom, which includes a birthday dedication page/photo. Families have the option of coordinating with classroom teachers to read their donated book to their child’s class as a celebratory occasion. Families in Pre-K, K and 1st grades may coordinate with teachers for a special treat during snack time. Please note that party invitations or goodie bags may not be distributed at school.
As an option, we invite families in middle/upper grades to send in a special treat and leave it in the main office for distribution. Classes in 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th grades do not devote classroom time to birthday celebrations.
The Spruce Street community includes families from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. It would be impossible for classrooms to celebrate and honor all the days families celebrate. Some families in our community may not celebrate holidays and birthdays at all due to religious or cultural beliefs. While we encourage families and students to share their traditions, we do not focus celebrations on any one holiday. We do not decorate the school or classrooms for holidays, nor do we hold any holiday celebrations. This includes Halloween and Valentine’s Day. We do, however, come together for several school wide and grade based celebrations, including a Spring Sing.
We have a nurse on staff at Spruce Street who administers medication to children, and sees children when they are not feeling well. Families should see Rena Gregory or our school nurse for paperwork pertaining to the administration of medication. Children are not permitted to self-medicate, and school personnel are not able to administer medicine either. If your child has a 504, it remains on file in the school and all school staff are made aware of individual medical needs.
Children often become sick, sometimes with a contagious illness. Please do not send your child to school with a fever or other contagious illness until symptoms have stopped for 24 hours. This time period includes children sent home from school. (For example, if your child has a fever or vomits during school on a Tuesday, s/he should not return
to school on Wednesday. Assuming s/he is free of symptoms, it is safe to send them back on Thursday). While we are vigilant about monitoring children’s health for contagious illnesses such as the flu and lice, with so many people sharing space, illness can spread quickly, we ask for your cooperation.
Spruce Street students actively engage with the outside community. This means we take trips on a frequent basis, always connected to our teaching and learning. Trips range from walking/observing tours around our immediate community, to museums, to larger trips with months of planning involved.
Each family is asked to fill out a walking trip slip at the beginning of the year. This covers general walking trips around our neighborhood. Teachers distribute trip-specific permission slips well in advance of larger trips (e.g. those involving public or school bus transportation). Families need to complete all required information on the trip slips, before signing and returning them. In the event of money collection, teachers coordinate directly with families.
Chaperoning a field trip is a great way for families to be involved in your child’s education. We reach out directly and via class parents to coordinate chaperones for field trips. Please note chaperoning a field trip is a responsibility and a commitment to the safety and education of an entire class. We are counting on our chaperones to be vigilant about safety, to be committed to the experience for all children in the class, and to be positive role models for students.
For innumerable reasons, younger siblings may never accompany parent chaperones. Only parents/guardians are permitted to serve as chaperones on school field trips. Chaperones are expected to pay the adult rate for any incurred costs (admission price, etc.).
The following are some chaperoning guidelines:
All Spruce Street classes are configured heterogeneously, seeking a balance between gender and personality. For kindergarten, parents had an opportunity to list three children they would prefer their child be placed with. While this is not a guarantee, it is an opportunity to thoughtfully ease the transition for some children. At the end of each school year, classroom teachers complete articulation cards, sharing strengths information about each child’s academic and social strengths and needs. Beginning in Grade 1, we work collaboratively to create balanced classes of students, with teacher assignment as the final step in the process.
Some of our classes are co-taught, and all classrooms are inclusive with a range of children and needs.
As previously mentioned, we value safety as our top priority. In case of an accident, we take appropriate measures. The school nurse and all staff are trained and equipped to handle emergencies, and know what to do depending on the severity of the situation. It is imperative that families maintain updated phone numbers and an updated blue card to ease communication in case of accidents/emergencies. This is especially true if your living arrangements have changed due to Hurricane Sandy.
Visiting Spruce Street
Whenever possible, all visitors should be announced via appointments through our main office. Adults are required to sign-in with a valid ID, and must check-in with the main office first. Please do not proceed directly to classrooms without visiting the main office. All visitors must show photo identification and sign-in with the front desk – even when just stopping by the main office. All adults are required to wear a visitor’s sticker during their time at Spruce Street. Adults/visitors may not wander the building and visit any classrooms/staff unannounced.
We are in a public building and anticipate visitors, ranging from the Chancellor to occasional reporters. Please fill out and submit the media release form you receive via your Take Home Folder.
Each student/family has received a grade-specific supply list, outlining supplies we are requesting they bring to school. This supply list outlines both communal supplies and those required for individual children. We also distributed wish lists, and requested items for art and science. We will continue to reach out if supply needs emerge, and appreciate any and all contributions.
Students may not bring electronics into any New York City public school – this includes, but is not limited to cell phones, electronic games, I-Pods, etc. Children are also not permitted to bring any personal property, including toys, games, money, playing cards, jewelry, or special items. Students are not permitted to play with/use prohibited items at any point throughout the day, including recess/lunch. Any prohibited items will be confiscated by a teacher and must be picked up by a parent/guardian. In general, do not send your child with any item they would be sad to lose! Your cooperation is required and appreciated.
We do have a lost and found in our school lobby. Please mark all personal items and make a habit of checking for lost jackets, gloves, and lunch boxes. We work hard to return labeled, lost items, but do donate unclaimed items several times a year. It is staggering how many items wind up there each week!
Privacy and Recordkeeping
Please note that all student records are privacy-protected, and all Spruce Street staff take the utmost care when discussing individual children/families.
Communication between Teachers and Families
Teacher-family communication is crucial to a child’s success in school. At the same time, we want to maintain a professional environment where everyone respects privacy and boundaries.
Chatting with teachers during arrival and dismissal is encouraged as a good way to touch base, relay information, etc. Families are also encouraged to send in notes for teachers via Take Home Folders, and may set up appointments/leave messages with teachers via the main office.
Teachers are each provided with an individual email account via our school website – www.sprucestreetnyc.org. This year, we are migrating all of our email/website to Google Apps for Education. More information and training is forthcoming.
Email is a quick way to connect with families, and we have created reasonable guidelines when handling this type of communication (see below). Email is generally not best for discussing specifics about children, especially since so many
subjects can quickly turn private or sensitive. Class parents can help facilitate volunteers, supplies, snack, reminders, etc. For more information about class parents or our website, see Julie.
Teachers are strongly encouraged to use school phones to make and return family phone calls (as opposed to personal cell phones). Phones are available in classrooms, as well as in the main office. It is also recommended that teachers maintain a log of family communication, to document outreach and conversations.
Each grade team creates an ongoing newsletter to be distributed to families and posted on our website. This newsletter includes instructional happenings across all subject areas, as well as information about trips and events. Newsletters are a terrific avenue to explain instructional practices and to reinforce the home-school connection. Additional information can and should be posted to the grade-level page on our school website.
Spruce Street Communication Guidelines
We are thrilled to offer additional, streamlined communication options for families. Please see below for some tips and guidelines when communicating with teachers:
DO adhere to these communication norms and respectful boundaries. We want to make sure this communication method works for everyone involved.
DO use the Family Handbook, Behavior Handbook, and school website as ongoing reference tools. Many answers to common questions can be found there.
DO continue to use existing communication methods (phone, notes, and meetings) in addition to emails.
DO direct relevant questions to office and support staff (questions about lunch, Metrocards, snack, etc.) Here is a helpful guide:
DO expect a reasonable response time from teachers. We’ll aim for 24-48 hours, but remember...teachers don’t sit in front of a computer all day and enjoy much-deserved time off on the weekends.
DO maintain student privacy when communicating. We can only talk/meet/write about your own child, and must always maintain privacy rights.
DO remember – emails have permanence. Emails are long-lasting and have the ability to be monitored.
DO allow yourself some time to cool off if you are feeling particularly angry or frustrated. Composing and sending an email when you’re upset can often lead to additional tension. Emotions often translate into a confrontational- sounding email, and nobody appreciates being on the receiving end of that communication.
DO expect support or intervention if these protocols do not meet our needs.
Candy, gum, etc. is not permitted at school at anytime. Once again, do not send your child with any sweet treats they would be sad to lose! Your cooperation is required and appreciated.
Family and community involvement are pillars of our school’s creation and mission. This section outlines how we communicate with families, and many ways for families and community members to be involved in our school
Communicating Information to Families
Our Website www.sprucestreetnyc.org provides archival information, copies of forms, photos, and news about our school. Our calendar and website are updated frequently.
Weekly Updates - An update of events, celebrations, meetings, etc. will be emailed to you each week from our Parent Coordinator, Julie Lam. If you would like to be added to this email communication or you would like to submit an announcement to be added to the weekly, please contact Julie at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Newsletters - Each grade team creates an ongoing newsletter to be distributed to families. This newsletter includes instructional happenings across all subject areas, as well as information about homework, trips and events.
Newsletters are a terrific avenue to explain instructional practices and to reinforce the home-school connection. Families also receive periodic letters from the principal, assistant principal, as well as other relevant updates.
Message from Nancy – each month, Nancy will send out a message to the entire community to reflect the priorities and reflections on the school year. These messages will connect to our instructional goals for the year, our school’s mission, as well as the needs of the community.
Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)
This organization provides a great opportunity for families to gather, discuss community issues, plan events, and fundraise for our school. In addition to the annual welcome breakfast and beginning-of-school potluck, the PTA meets on a monthly basis, with a standing meeting time to be determined in accordance with the bylaws. This year, our PTA Presidents are Ashley Duncan and Learan Kahanov. Please reach out to members of the Executive Board for more information. Updates and announcements will be distributed, via a newsletter, several times though out the school year.
School Leadership Team (SLT)
Like the PTA, the School Leadership Team is a great vehicle for fostering home-school connections. Parent representatives on the SLT are involved in important discussions about our school’s development, including the creation of our school’s Comprehensive Educational Plan (CEP). This group meets monthly and includes representatives from various constituents (teachers, parents, administrators).
Each class will have 1-2 class parents. Class parents provide support in various ways to our talented teachers. Primary responsibilities of class parent(s) may include coordinating the snack calendar, organizing field trip chaperones, and communicating PTA happenings, etc. Class parents and teachers will collaborate on an individual basis as needs arise.
We love our parents at Spruce Street and welcome them to help out when necessary and meaningful. There are many ways to volunteer throughout the school year and it is essential that parents get involved in any way possible.
These might include: PTA sponsored events, helping in our beautiful library, chaperoning on field trips, etc. In addition to classroom teachers, Julie Lam will be reaching out to families and will coordinate volunteers.
Spruce Street holds many parent workshops throughout the year. See the section titled Curriculum Workshops for more information.
Classroom Events/Celebrations of Learning
We often invite families to join us in celebrating learning at Spruce Street. This includes celebrations, publishing parties, art exhibits, performances, etc. We welcome family members into the school and classrooms during these times, as there is sure to be much learning happening and much to celebrate!
When families arrive, there will be a sign-in sheet at the front desk. Typically, a Spruce Street staff member will alert guests when it is time to proceed to the classroom. We strive to create an inclusive, welcoming environment for families. Classroom events are often highly attended!
Afterschool Program Partners (Grades K-5 only)
We are proud to partner with Manhattan Youth for our onsite afterschool programming. Families can find out more information via www.manhattanyouth.org, including registration, programmatic offerings, etc. Additionally, families often participate in a variety of other afterschool programs that provide pick-up from Spruce. These include Gil’s Sports, JCP, and Church Street Music.
The DOE and Spruce Street are committed to communicating with families in appropriate and inclusive ways. We strive to provide essential and ongoing information in families’ home languages if necessary. Translation services are also available during Parent Teacher Conferences.
Conflicts of Interest
It is natural that families may want to contribute gifts to teachers and staff members. We want to encourage parents to express their gratitude to all Spruce Street staff for the wonderful work they have been doing, but we want to ensure that your gratitude does not put anyone’s employment at risk. Here are some guidelines/rules of thumb:
Any teacher or staff member who violates such guidelines is putting him/herself at risk for an investigation by the Special Commissioner of Investigations or the NYC Conflicts of Interest Board. Such investigations have the potential to end in employee termination.
We express our thankfulness in many ways each and every day. As parents of children in New York City and the Department of Education, we must all be aware of conflicts of interest and avoiding potentially unethical situations. A
full description of prohibited activities and relationships, including guidelines on tutoring and outside employment, can be found in Chancellor’s Regulation C-110.
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Spruce Street School - PS 397
12 Spruce Street
New York, NY 10038
Nancy Harris, Principal
Kara Levin, Assistant Principal
Stefanie Ericksen, Assistant Principal (IA)
website is maintained by the school with assistance from the PTA
Pre-K to 8th Grade: 8:15 a.m. - 2:35 p.m.