|The Lab School for Collaborative
Studies aims to give students an academic program that's on a par with that
of Stuyvesant or Bronx Science in a more relaxed, less competitive atmosphere.
Students work hard here -- to be sure, some are as sleep-deprived as the
kids at the specialized high schools but Lab School is less intense
and more intimate.
"The teachers are available all the time before school, during
lunch, after school. They understand each student's problems," says Marlene
Spoerri, who graduated from Lab last year.
Founded in 1987, Lab combines middle and high school, serving kids in
grades six to twelve. "Mixing a high school with a middle school gentles
down the kids," one teacher says. "There is a toughness that is pervasive
in most high schools that is missing here." Indeed, in an eleventh-grade
physics class, a giant roller coaster made from K'nex, a colorful plastic
construction toy, was used to study accelerated motion. Kids have built
rockets and set them off in the playground.
Every junior works six to ten hours a week at an internship; past internships
have included positions at day-care centers, hospitals, architectural
firms, and judges' offices. There is a student-exchange program in Eastern
Europe sponsored by the Lauder Foundation.
Co-directors Sheila Breslaw and Rob Menken admit that a small school
such as theirs can't compete with the facilities and class offerings of
Stuyvesant or Bronx Science. For example, Spanish is the only foreign
language offered at Lab; Stuyvesant offers seven. Lab (which follows the
district's arise math curriculum), offers one year of Advanced Placement
calculus; Stuyvesant offers three. But, says parent Lisa Siegman, the
school is "academically serious without being high-pressure," staking
out a middle ground between schools with "crazy amounts of homework" and
those that are touchy-feely.
How hard is it to get in? Preference is given to students living
in District 2. The school accepts students in sixth and ninth grades;
96 percent of the middle-school students are admitted to the high school.
Lab accepts 30 to 40 new ninth-graders each year. "Kids who really, really
want to come should make themselves known to their guidance counselor,"
Downsides: One mother says there are divisions between typically
middle-class Brooklynites and more moneyed Manhattanites. Cliquishness
is an acknowledged problem, and the administration plans to set up a "buddy
system" to pair returning students with new ones to help newcomers make
Guidance and college counseling: The school's college adviser,
Wendy Muskat, meets with groups of parents in their homes to discuss the