P.S. 276 has a home, and a brand new one to boot


BY Aline Reynolds

After an incubator year at Tweed Courthouse on Chambers Street, P.S. 276 is opening its very own doors this school year over at 55 Battery Place. Battery Park City toddlers will no longer have to make the trek across Lower Manhattan to get their education fix.

“The space is really beautiful — we’re all feeling very fortunate,” said Principal Terri Ruyter, during a coffee break on Monday as she was just settling into her new, spacious office at the eight-floor school.

So far, teachers are pleased with their classrooms, particularly the natural light that filters into the building, which happens to be the city’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold-certified school.

The school held three kindergarten classes on a single floor at the Tweed Courthouse last year. At its new location, there are eight floors of classrooms to accommodate the over 300 students. The school now has 27 teachers, compared to only six last year.

“We couldn’t have stayed at Tweed — it wasn’t big enough,” Ruyter said.

The school is welcoming in second graders for the first time this year. Next year, it will expand to a third and a seventh grade; in 2012-13, to fourth and eighth grades; and in 2013-14, it will add grade five.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm for a middle school Downtown that’s part of the neighborhood,” the principal said.

The school initiated its middle school program this year with a new sixth grade class. “We decided to go ahead with it, rather than wait,” Ruyter said.

Having sixth graders in the school “makes the building more lively, and our little kids will have big kids as role models.”

Books are already being shelved in the school’s library, and class equipment and furniture are in place. All resources will be in place in time for the first day of school on September 8.

“I’m sure things will not be done the way they’re supposed to be done, and we’ll have to fix them,” Ruyter said, anticipating some challenges of moving into a new building.

“Typically, if you’ve been in the school building before, you have a sense of where everything is and how everything works,” she added. Teachers won’t have that luxury in a new space. “But it still involves unpacking, stuff that teachers do every year.”

The school will have a gymnasium, unlike at Tweed. There, the physical education staff had to devise a makeshift space for children to play sports.

“There was a column sticking up the middle, and Rachel, our physical education teacher, would wrap tumbling mats around it to protect the kids,” she said, “so they kind of did P.E. in a circle around the maypole.”

Having a gym “is important in terms of a message we’re giving to children about physical exercise, developing health awareness and lifelong habits of fitness,” Ruyter said.

In coordination with the Downtown Community Center, the school will offer intramural sports to students for the first year. Kids will partake in activities such as swimming, soccer, ceramics, hip hop, basketball, gymnastics and tumbling.

“It’s going to be a really full year one,” Ruyter said, smiling.