Wednesday, December 8, 2010

West End Day School

We sometimes encounter young children who struggle in school for reasons that go beyond learning differences. For children whose emotional needs require a more supportive, therapeutic setting than mainstream schools -- or even most schools focused on learning differences -- can provide, West End Day School offers an important alternative for New York families.

We had the opportunity yesterday to visit this oasis of calm and support on the upper West Side of Manhattan, and were impressed by the school's approach and by the way we observed it being put into practice. Carrie Catapano, a licensed social worker and Head of School, explained that the students who were served by the school were those dealing with emotional vulnerabilities, perhaps brought on by a family crisis, separation issues, school phobia, or simply an inability to manage in a more stressful school setting. The school features a very small student body -- around 40 to 50 students at maximum -- and a highly individualized program with support for both the student and family. West End Day has a policy of keeping places for new students open so that it can offer admission to students who need this special setting at any point in the school year. As Ms. Catapano and Katy Meyer, MSEd, Education Head of the school pointed out, a student who is in need of the supportive, therapeutic setting of West End Day can't wait for the beginning of a school year for the kind of help he or she requires.

This focus on emotional and social needs does not come at the expense of academics. Extremely small classes, broken down by both ability levels and student readiness to learn in a classroom setting, employ Smart Boards in every room, and follow New York State Standards. Scientifically proven instruction methods geared towards each child's specific learning needs are employed in all academic areas. Although West End Day School is not on the list of schools for which New York will provide direct payment, the school will help parents find assistance with Carter funding to help them with tuition expenses.

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