Frequently Asked Questions

Updated November 20, 2018

Can you tell us about Arts and Languages at MS 839?

We believe that all students benefit from a broad exposure to arts and language. In 6th and 7th grades, for 6 periods a week, students experience a quarterly rotation of Music, Visual Art, Theater, and French. In 8th grade, students choose an advanced study course that meets 6 periods a week. In addition to this, students have a mixed 6-7-8th grade elective course 2 periods per week. This year, these have included photography, film-making, animal behavior field study, guitar, and math team, among many others.

What does a sample schedule look like?  

* Arts Rotation is a quarterly cycle of French, Visual Arts, Music, and Theater

How do you deal with challenging behavior?  

MS 839 embraces a student centered, relationship building, and restorative philosophy towards challenging behavior, within the context of the Chancellor’s City Wide Behavioral Expectations. While no exact situation is alike, we use a combination of collaborative problem solving, meditations (peer and adult led), restorative circles, and conferencing to approach difficult behavior. We are painfully aware of an individual school’s place in the school to prison pipeline, and we therefore monitor our data to ensure all students are being treated equitably.

What special education services are available? 

We provide all services based on students’ IEPs. Currently we have 2 ICT classes (out of 4 classes per grade), a SETSS program, OT, PT, and speech therapy on site.

Special education busing is available only to students whose IEP requires door to door busing.

How do you challenge advanced students, especially in math and science, in an unscreened school?

We believe that our approach to interdisciplinary and project based learning (based on the EL Education model) creates opportunities to challenge all students across achievement levels. We call these “low floor, high ceiling” projects. Simply put, this means that the problems and projects have an entry point for all students, but are not limited in how far they can be taken.

We also now have the data to prove that our students who enter achieving at a high level continue to progress. In our class of 2018 cohort, students who entered reading at a 10th grade level made on average 2.5 years of progress over the course of 2 years. This is remarkable considering they were already achieving at a high level.

Middle school is a really difficult time for students. How do you support students through this time?

At MS 839, every child is part of a Crew. Crews meet 3 periods a week with one crew leader in a group of about 12 students. Crew is the home base for social and emotional support, family and school connection, and academic progress monitoring. Students stay with the same crew and crew leader for a full year. 

What supports are available for struggling learners?

We have 2 ICT classes, with 2 teachers in the room in all academic classes. We also have a part-time SETSS program. All of our reading periods are co-taught to ensure all students have detailed reading support, regardless of their reading level.

In addition to a regular math class, 6th and 7th graders take 2 weekly periods of math lab, which are designed to build skills and supplement the regular math course.

If a student is in an ICT class, is their crew also a mix of General Education and IEP students? 

Yes, both classes and crew groups are mixed with General Education and IEP students.

When students get older, are there opportunities for advanced studies?

Currently, students have the option to take an 8th grade advanced study in the following courses: Algebra, Visual Art, Theater, Music, and Debate.

Do you offer Regents courses?

All students take Algebra in 8th grade. The course prepares students to take the Common Core Algebra Regents should they and their family choose to.

We do not offer a Regents science course because we believe it would not provide the type of authentic, inquiry based science that 8th graders need to grow as scientists.

What are your hours?

9:00 AM – 3:20 PM

Do you have a before school program?

We have early drop off, sports, and breakfast program open between 8:00 am and 8:40 AM.

Do you have an after school program? And what do you do if the program is full?

Our afterschool partner, Roads to Success, operates a free program daily from 3:20 PM -6:00 PM, as well as additional programs during school breaks. Students have the opportunity to choose one of three specific “tracks” that they follow Monday through Wednesday, i.e.  sports (hockey, basketball, soccer), performing arts (media, theater, dance), and STEM (coding, engineering). On Thursdays and Fridays students choose an elective for variety and to explore something new or different. Academic tutoring is also available.

If the program is full (cap is 80 students) students are put on a wait list. So far, on any given day, the program has not had to turn students away.

What is the average time spent on homework each night?

When homework is assigned, it is supplementary to material gone over in class, often for math. A homework load will typically be 30 minutes of reading and 30 minutes of math. The load will often increase at the end of each thematic expedition as students finish up projects that reflect their work throughout the expedition.

Why is there only French and only for half a year?

When MS 839 first opened, we reviewed applicants with all sorts of backgrounds, working with several different languages. Our French teacher was chosen based on being a good fit for the school, rather than on the language taught. We are limited to French for budgetary reasons. We’d love to offer more languages.

Are there other electives, clubs, or after school options for students?

We currently offer a French Club, Student Council, Multicultural Club, Queer Book Club, Peer Mediation, Just Words Reading Club, Soccer Team, Basketball Team, Volleyball Team, Poetry Club, Running Club, Spring Musical, and NeST (our student tech team).

Are students allowed out to lunch? 

We do not have off campus lunch, as the traffic in the area is far too dangerous. Lunch time is 1:00 PM-1:50 PM. Students spend half the period in the lunchroom, eating, and the second half outside or, depending on the weather, they also have the option to use the gym/library.

How do you identify ELL, FRL, and Students in Temporary Housing?

All priority groups are identified by the DOE Office of Student Enrollment through elementary school records, not by MS 839.

How diverse is your staff?

We have instructors and staff coming from a rainbow of diverse backgrounds and cultures at MS 839. We are approximately 44% White, 25% Hispanic, 18% African American, and 10% Asian. Our families come from all over the district and speak over 10 languages besides English.

Tell me about sports!

We have a budding sports program. Currently we have basketball, running, soccer and volleyball teams that are beginning to compete against other schools in league play.

Do you go on any adventure or overnight retreats? 

We have a 3-day Outward Bound trip for 6th graders at Sharpe Reservation in Fishkill, NY, in mid-October, and an end of the year overnight trip for 8th graders, and many day trips throughout the year for all grades. Longer trips for 7th graders are also in the works.

How do you handle high school admissions?

We have a comprehensive high school counseling program. It starts in Crew, expands to high school visits, and works with families throughout the fall. Check out the high school resources tab for an inside peek.

What computers are in school? 

All students have access to Mac computers and Chromebooks, whether in the library, in class, or for research. Incoming 6th graders are all assigned their own ms839.org email address. We are also integrating Google Classroom into our classes.

How do students get to and from school? 

We do not offer busing. Almost all students travel in small groups along the various trains and buses. Metrocards are provided to students who qualify based on the distance they live from the school, as determined by the DOE.

Do you have lockers? 

No. However, we do have hangers in students’ crew rooms where students can choose to leave their bags as they move from class to class.

How many students do you have? 

We have 4 classes per grade. Currently, we have 132 students in 6th, 108 in 7th, and 112 in 8th.

What is your cell phone policy?

We do not allow students to use their phone from 9:00 AM to 3:20 PM. Families should call the main office if they have an emergency and need to reach their child. The first time a student uses their phone during the school day, they receive a warning. The second time it is taken away for the rest of the day and returned once school is over. The third time the phone is held in the office and we request a parent to come pick it up so we can discuss a course of future action. 

If parents don’t speak directly with teachers at SLC’s (Student Led Conferences), how do parents communicate with their student’s teachers?

 Teachers have parent engagement hours every Tuesday after school until 4:30. They can also easily be reached through their MS 839 email.

If you want to be involved in theater but don’t want to act, what are other options? 

For those students who are interested in the behind-the-scenes work on a play, we have an active student stage crew.