New Murray Hill Elementary School Welcomes First Students

By Heather Holland on September 9, 2013 3:10pm | Updated on September 9, 2013 5:43pm

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 New school P.S. 281 welcomed its first pre-k and kindergarten students on Monday.
First Day of School at P.S. 281
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MURRAY HILL — A brand-new Murray Hill elementary school welcomed its first students on Monday.

P.S. 281, also known as the River School, opened with just kindergarten and pre-K classes in a newly constructed building at 425 E. 35th St. The school features a rooftop playground and a space that doubles as a gym and cafeteria, according to Insideschools.

Parents who had toured the school during an orientation last month said they liked what they saw.

“It’s very nice, small and cozy," Yvette Torres, a resident of Midtown Plaza, said of the classroom where her son started kindergarten Monday. "The teachers were nice. He’s happy to come to school, so that’s a good thing.”

Murray Hill resident Tim Hayes, whose son and daughter are attending the school, praised its modern style.

“The inside is gorgeous — very state-of-the-art,” Hayes said. “We just feel super lucky to be here.”

P.S. 94, which is co-located with P.S. 281, also had its first day at the brand-new school on Monday.

“I’m more nervous than excited,” said Upper East Sider Shaly Ramirez, whose daughter spent three years in a private pre-K dedicated to students with autism and was starting kindergarten at P.S. 94.

“I didn’t get to see the school, but I saw its sister school on Spruce Street [P.S. 397], because the administration said it was basically going to mirror that school. I’m not sure how she’s going to react, but I’m excited.”

While the inside of the school is complete, the building was still surrounded by construction Monday morning, thanks to two residential towers by JDS Development Group that are expected to rise behind the school at 262 First Ave., according to the developer's website.

The towers will reach 49 and 40 stories, offering 800 luxury rental units connected by a sky bridge, according to the developer's site. Construction will be done in early 2016, the developer said. 

While the construction forced parents and kids to enter P.S. 281 through a ramp surrounded by scaffolding on the first day of school, parents said they weren't worried that the work would disrupt class time.

“We’re just going to keep an eye on everything, and as long as everything is safe, it’s fine," said Murray Hill resident Mickael Meneger, whose daughter started kindergarten Monday.

The developer said that the company was working closely with the school to minimize the impact of construction near the school, though construction will occur during school hours.

"Rigorous temporary protection and safety measures are being implemented during the construction period in coordination with school staff," said Joey Arak, a spokesman for JDS Development Group, in an email. "Site logistics (such as loading locations) have been carefully planned to be as far away from school entrances as possible."

The school will be phasing in one grade each year, and is expected to serve pre-K through fifth grade by 2018. Pre-K classes run in two half-day sessions.

In a previous interview, Principal Nicole Ziccardi Yerk promised to lead the school with a curriculum focusing on the arts, community collaboration and technology, noting that the school would offer iPads for students to use and would collaborate on lessons with Columbia University and Hunter College.

“I hope there is a community that we have established," Yerk said during an interview in March.

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