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Prestigious Schools Pack Forest Hills, Kew Gardens and Rego Park

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | February 11, 2013 6:40am

QUEENS — Forest Hills, Kew Gardens and Rego Park have a host of schools considered among the best in the five boroughs, drawing parents from all across Queens and the city.

Top schools in the area offer many non-traditional programs, including opera appreciation and yoga, and most schools have been rated A or B by the Department of Education, which parents say gives their children a better chance to get into a good middle school.

“The schools are outstanding in this area,” said Lynn Schulman, a member of the District 28 Community Education Council, which covers all three neighborhoods.

One of the most coveted schools in the area is P.S. 196 Grand Central Parkway, in Forest Hills, which for many families is a destination school.

“I actually moved to the other side of Queens Boulevard just because of 196,” said Kitti Fisher Borgatti, mother of a 10-year-old fifth-grader, Claire, and the Parents Association president at the school. “Kids excel here."

The school, she said, consistently performs well and offers many unique educational and extracurricular activities, including violin, chorus, yoga and cooking.

The school is so popular that it is attended by about 200 more students than it was initially meant to hold, according to Insideschools. To relieve overcrowding, the school added an extra kindergarten class last year, Fisher Borgatti said. 

In 2008, P.S. 303 opened only a few blocks away from P.S. 196 to give parents in the area more options. The pre-K-3 school, called the Academy for Excellence Through the Arts, weaves visual and performing arts into its curriculum, which is popular with parents.

“This school incorporates art into [its] teaching,” said Sandra Mandell, mother of 7-year-old Eva and 5-year-old Oliver. “The kids have a portfolio from kindergarten that they keep with them throughout their tenure there.”

Also popular is P.S. 101, despite getting a C on its most recent DOE progress report. Located in Forest Hills Gardens, the school is called The School in the Gardens.

"Our [parent association] is very strong, and the school has great interactive equipment, including SMART Boards in the classrooms,” said Liana Berman, mother of two children attending the school.

P.S. 101 and P.S. 196 are said to compete with one another, according to published reports. It was also reported that the rivalry has led to a stronger emphasis on testing at P.S. 101.

Here are some of the area's noteworthy elementary schools:

P.S. 196, Grand Central Parkway School, 71-25 113th St.

P.S. 196 has been awarded an A by the DOE for six consecutive years. In the 2012 progress report, nearly 87 percent of students passed the state's English test and nearly 92 percent passed the math test, according to DOE figures. Many families seeking high-performing schools and varied activities move to the area for P.S. 196, and as a result, the school is quite crowded. Called the Grand Central Parkway School, it serves students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and has a diverse student body. Equipped with SMART Boards and iPads, the school also offers enrichment programs and morning tutoring, as well as many clubs and extracurricular activities, including chorus, dance class and drama, parents say.

P.S. 303, Academy for Excellence Through the Arts, 108-55 69th Ave.

P.S. 303 offers a unique program that incorporates drama, dance, music and art and is based on the vision of Principal Barbara Leto. The school, which operates from grades pre-K to third, was opened in 2008 to create more options in the neighborhood, where parents say they want additional seats and challenging programs. The school is small and has no gym or library. It received an A on its most recent progress report and has a partnership with the Lincoln Center Institute and Together in Dance, parents say.

P.S. 101, School in the Gardens, 2 Russell Place

The so-called "School in the Gardens," P.S. 101 is located in Forest Hills Gardens in a beautiful historic building. Some published reports, including an article in the New York Times, claim that the school, which has received a C on two consecutive progress reports, has started putting more emphasis on test scores in order to compete with P.S. 196. Nevertheless, many parents praise the teachers and say they are satisfied with the students’ academic performance, which according to its 2012 progress report saw about 78 percent of students pass the state English test and 85 percent pass the math test. The school's parent association is very strong and sponsors many after-school programs, parents say. The K-6 school also offers morning tutorials, a chess club and many arts programs, including ballet and opera appreciation, according to its DOE website. Parents also praise its physical education activities, which include hockey and soccer programs.

P.S. 99, Kew Gardens, 82-37 Kew Gardens Road

An A school according to its most recent report card, P.S. 99 attracts many young families to the neighborhood. Parents say they are happy with its academic level and extensive art programs, that in the past included performances of Shakespeare, as well as its strong parent association. After-school programs include arts and crafts, drama and yoga. The school works with Maple Grove Cemetery Arts Partners, Jamaica Arts Center and the Queens Council on the Arts, parents say.

P.S. 175, The Lynn Gross Discovery School, 64-35 102nd St., Rego Park

The Lynn Gross Discovery School has a very diverse student body, including many students who come from Russian-speaking families. The K-5 school earned a B on a recent progress report and has a very involved community of parents. The parent association sponsors the after-school program, which is managed by the local Central Queens Y. The school also offers science and arts programs. P.S. 175 uses teaching methods for reading and writing that were developed at Columbia University's Teachers College, in which children write numerous drafts of their papers and help each other with editing, according to Insideschools.

P.S. 139, The Rego Park School, 93-06 63rd Drive

This school is culturally diverse. According to Insideschools, 35 languages are spoken by students, and P.S. 139 has two programs for gifted students in second through sixth grades. Parents praise the school for its high expectations. It received a B on its most recent progress report, and has a strong arts program and a great science lab, which boasts a “weather station” connected to weather equipment on the roof. The school offers tutoring for at-risk students.

P.S. 206, The Horace Harding School, 61-02 98th St.

Serving students in grades K-5, the school went from a B on its 2010-2011 progress report to a D in 2011-2012. Nevertheless, parents praise P.S. 206 for a variety of special programs and extracurricular activities, which include chorus, keyboard and ballroom dance clubs. The school was the recipient of three Magnet grants in the past, according to Insideschools.

P.S. 220, Edward Mandel, 62-10 108th St.

The school, located just off the LIE, got a C on its latest progress report. Some parents complained that the school does not demand enough from students. Others praised its special programs, which include hands-on science, problem-solving math and community service programs. Like P.S. 175, it also uses the Teacher’s College Writing Program, according to the Department of Education website.