Community & School News July 2017

Free Summer Meals 
School is out, but hunger doesn’t break for summer. The Summer Meals Program has returned this year, providing free, healthy breakfast and lunch to all children ages 18 and under at hundreds of locations around the City until September 2 (Note: there is no service on July 4). The Summer Meals Program is available at various public schools, community pool centers, New York City Housing Authority complexes, libraries, and other locations around the city. Children do not need to register or show any kind of documentation or ID to receive their free meal. To find a Summer Meals location near you, text “NYCMEALS” to 877-877, call 311, or link to their website here. And like most things nowadays, there’s an app for it. Download the “SchoolFood App” in the App Store or Google play to easily find a location near you.

Lunchroom Artwork Sends a Message
Local young artists are hoping to step up lunchtable talk with issues that really matter. Students at two Staten Island middle schools have once again transformed ordinary lunchroom tables into meaningful works of art addressing major social issues in their communities as part of the LEAP (Learning Through an Expanded Arts Program) Public Art Exhibition. The students presented their original large-scale public artworks in two Staten Island parks last month. Students from P.S./I.S. South Richmond 25R proudly presented their ecosystems & environment project at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center in June, while students from Edwin Markham I.S. 51R unveiled their anti-animal abuse project at Clove Lakes Park on the same day.

The schools are two of ten participating schools around the city, all of which serve to create the largest student art exhibition in the history of NYC parks, as well as the first to span the five boroughs. The exhibition, “A View From The Lunchroom; Students Bringing Issues To The Table,” empowers young people to have a voice in their communities and to express themselves on important issues. School lunchroom tables were chosen as a canvas for the project because they are a symbol of student ideas and conversations. The talented youngsters were thrilled to participate in such a worthwhile project, and they definitely learned a lot in the process.

“We were reading a book about how a boy needed water in his life, and we actually kind of got inspired about it, and realized that a lot of people in this world don’t have water. So we should take it into consideration and try to save what we have, because there’s not a lot of clean water on this earth that we have,” said Lavasha Marrero, a 12-year-old student at P.S./I.S. 25R.  “I hope people tell other people about it, tell them to come visit the table, and take pictures of the table. I hope they learn that we really need water.”

Fewer Testing Days for Students
For parents and teachers who aren’t fans of State testing, here’s a step in the right direction. The Board of Regents recently announced that the number days students will spend taking the State assessments in English Language Arts and mathematics will be reduced from three to two. The change affects students in grades 3 to 8 and will take affect starting next spring in 2018.

“The Regents and I continue to listen to the concerns of parents and teachers and to make additional adjustments to the grades 3-8 exams,” said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “In response to those public concerns, last year we reduced the number of test questions and moved to untimed testing. Today’s decision is another important step in our efforts to deliver a rigorous testing regime that is responsive to the public’s concerns.”

Cashless Tolls 
Put your money away — the Verrazano Bridge is going cashless. Cashless toll booths have been installed and the bridge connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island will no longer be accepting cash from drivers. The MTA’s plan, pushed through by Governor Cuomo, is an effort to reduce congestion in New York City and allow traffic to flow smoothly. By the end of 2017, all New York City bridges and tunnels will be cashless. Motorists will no longer stop to pay tolls or show EZ Passes; instead they will continue driving past the toll and their EZ Pass will be charged automatically. Non-EZ Pass-holders will receive a bill in the mail. Those with a Staten Island resident carpool discount will be refunded for their leftover tickets and their discount will be applied electronically. Refund requests can be mailed to TBTA Staten Island Resident Carpool Ticket Refund, Revenue Management, 2 Broadway, 23rd Floor, New York, NY 10004.

2017 Backpack Drive
Fill a backpack for a kid in need! The 123 Precinct Community Council is now accepting new, unopened supplies to fill backpacks for local children who cannot afford school supplies. The precinct is accepting donations until August 18 and distribution will take place on August 19 at Messiah Lutheran Church (205 Jefferson Blvd.) from 10am to 3pm. Monetary donations will be accepted as well, and will be used to purchase backpacks and school supplies. Pre-stocked backpacks are also welcome. Monetary donations can be mailed to the 123 Precinct Community Council, P.O. Box 120158, S.I., NY, 10312. Checks should be made payable to 123 Precinct Community Council (marked “2017 Back to School Backpack Program” in the memo).

Suggested supplies include: backpacks (no wheels); #2 pencils; colored pencils; erasers; blue, black and red pens; highlighters; loose leaf notebook paper; liquid glue and glue sticks; pocket folders; composition notebooks; 24-count crayons; basic function calculators; washable markers; 1, 3, and 5-subject spiral notebooks; 3-ring binders; pencil boxes or bags; rulers; protractors; 3×5 index cards; lunch boxes; and child safety scissors.

If you are aware of a child or children in need, please let the council know. All information is confidential. Volunteers are also needed to organize, sort, and fill the backpacks. For more information contact Eileen at [email protected] or 917-514-4965.

Total Fitness Challenge
Assemblyman Michael Cusick is challenging Staten Island students to keep their minds AND bodies fit this summer. The annual Total Fitness Challenge encourages children to read at least 30 minutes per day and perform as many physical activities as possible over the summer break. It is open to all students from kindergarten through eighth grade. The different physical activities are assigned varying point values, which count toward each student’s total score. Kids will keep track of their efforts through a daily log that their parents must sign each day. A Total Fitness medal will be awarded to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place top scorers from each grade among the island-wide entries. A trophy will be given to the school having the most points and participants in the challenge. Click here to link to more information on the Total Fitness Challenge.

New Gyms for Local Schools
Seven Staten Island schools will be receiving new designated gymnasiums as part of the Mayor’s Universal Physical Education initiative. Of the 200 schools within the five boroughs that are part of the program, the Staten Island schools that will be receiving new gyms are: PS 1 in Tottenville, PS 5 in Huguenot, PS 20 in Port Richmond, PS 38 in Midland Beach, PS 39 in Arrochar, PS 54 in Willowbrook; and PS 74 in Tompkinsville.

Over the next several months, the DOE and the School Construction Authority (SCA) will work with individual schools to explore a variety of options at each school to ensure all students have access to space for PE. These options will include constructing new gymnasiums, renovating schoolyards, converting or enhancing existing rooms into fitness areas, converting auditoriums into “gymatoriums,” or leasing PE space from community-based organizations.

“The lack of physical education classes in our schools has been a concern of mine for over 20 years,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I could not be more proud to be dedicating resources to ensure that every school will have an adequate PE space by 2021. Incorporating physical activity into the day isn’t just the healthy thing for our young people, it is the law and one that was ignored for far too long.”

Free College Tuition
Is your college student eligible for free tuition? Under Governor Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship, he or she might be. The first-of-its-kind program will provide tuition-free college at New York’s public colleges and universities to families making up to $125,000 a year. The plan will be phased in over three years, beginning for New Yorkers making up to $100,000 annually in the fall of 2017, $110,000 in 2018, and $125,000 in 2019. The budget additionally includes $8 million to provide open educational resources, including e-books, to students at SUNY and CUNY colleges to help offset textbook costs. The deadline for scholarship applications is July 21, 2017. Click here to link to an application form and more information at

Too Good For Drugs
We think every child in Staten Island is too good for drugs! This year’s Too Good For Drugs program culminated last month at New Dorp High School, in which Borough President James Oddo joined members of the NYPD to congratulate participants. The classroom program, which is co-taught by a teacher and NYPD officer, teaches children how to handle peer pressure, deal with outside influences, and make healthy decisions through interactive games and skits. The program, now in its third year, took place in every 5th grade class on Staten Island and was also piloted for 7th graders in four middle schools and for freshman at New Dorp High School.

At the ceremony, BP Oddo and members of the NYPD spoke about the dangers of addiction and encouraged students to act as leaders in and out of the classroom. At the end of the ceremony, students took a pledge to abstain from tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. BP Oddo, added that he wants to see the program expand even further and told the graduates, “Through this program, you are going to be part of the solution. We need you. We can’t win this battle without you. We need your help in the pushback in the fight against addiction.”

Teachers Get a Free Pass
Teacher Appreciation Week is extended through the summer at the Staten Island Museum. They are once again offering a free pass to all teachers, administrators, and parent coordinators every day between June 15 and September 15. After over 300 education professionals signed up last year, the museum was excited to continue the offer this year. The pass is valid at either location (St. George and Snug Harbor); visitors just need to show their school ID, a paystub, or school letterhead to be granted free entry. Check out the S.I. Parent Family Calendar for information on the Staten Island Museum’s family-friendly events and programs.

Congratulations, Wesley!
The Michael J. Petrides Student Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science was given to Wesley Dai, a student at Staten Island Academy. The impressive student achieved the highest academic average of any student at his school in the past 10 years and got a perfect score of 2400 on his SAT. This year, he was selected as a candidate for the U.S. Department of Education’s prestigious Presidential Scholar’s Program. He was also named a semifinalist for the National Merit Scholarship Program and an AP Scholar with Honor. He serves as the president of his school’s Science Club and swims competitively. Wesley will be attending Yale in the fall. The annual Petrides award is given to a graduating high school senior who excels in math and science. Each Staten Island high school is asked to submit a single nominee, from which the honoree and runner-up are selected. Congratulations to Wesley and all of the nominees!

2018 High School Directory
If your child is entering eighth grade this fall, then now is the time to start thinking about it high school. The 2018 NYC High School Directory is currently available online at the Department of Education website, and it’s filled with important information for students preparing to enter High School in 2018. You’ll find High School Fair dates, admissions test dates, application deadlines, important websites, as well as guidelines for applying, methods of admission, programs offered, and much more. You can also link to the directory here to get started helping your teen or tween apply to the high school of their choice.

Fourth of July Travis Parade
Don’t miss the biggest 4th of July celebration on the Island! The annual Fourth of July Travis Parade is celebrating its 107th anniversary this month. It’s one of the oldest, continuously-held Independence Day parades in the country. This year’s Grand Marshal will be NYS Assemblyman Michael Cusick. The rain-or-shine ceremony kicks off noon at the reviewing stand at P.S. 26 at 4108 Victory Blvd, followed by the parade step-off from Showplace Entertainment Center at 141 East Service Road at 12:30pm. Go to more information.

Drug Prevention Portal
Staten Island’s drug epidemic is a major concern for parents living on the Island, where overdose statistics are particularly alarming. Hopefully providing the right tools, information, and resources for people can help prevent deaths. The Drug Prevention Portal is a new website providing comprehensive data about overdose and addiction on Staten Island. It includes information on Naloxone saves, overdose deaths, Emergency Department visits and hospital admissions. It also provides resources for the families of those suffering from addiction, including contact information for treatment providers and information on where to get Naloxone kits. The website was developed by Staten Island Performing Provider System (SI PPS) in conjunction with the Borough President’s office. SI PPS which was formed by RUMC, SIUH and over 75 local partner organizations transforming healthcare in our borough. Click here to link to the Drug Prevention Portal.

That’s What Friends Are For
Fun family-friendly events, exclusive online giveaways, big savings from local merchants, and always up-to-date seasonal happenings are just a few great reasons to become a Family of Friends member! To start receiving the SI Parent weekly newsletter, just click here and fill out some basic info. It’s fast and easy. You can also sign up directly from our Facebook page by clicking on the “Sign Up” app button. We promise we won’t spam you; we’ll only send you the good stuff!