NKOTB, for anyone not of a certain age, stands for “New Kids on the Block”….
“We happened to land on the same pad in the pond,” says Micaela Bracamonte of meeting Dr. Kimberly Busi at a summer camp for “twice-exceptional” children (who are gifted in one area but have special needs in another). Bracamonte was starting a school for 2e kids, while Busi was starting an after-school program for 2e kids, and both were searching for a building. “There are 50,000 2e kids in New York City alone, and a million nationwide,” says Bracamonte, and yet there’s no facility here dedicated to them—which they need, because when they’re enrolled in gifted programs, their weaknesses tend to drag them down; but their strengths get ignored in special-needs programs.
The women joined forces to rent the ground floor and mezzanine at 56 Reade. (The space is technically in 291 Broadway, but the entrance is on Reade; you may recall it as a former home of the defunct Globe Institute of Technology. The basement will reportedly be a martial-arts school.) Busi and her co-director, Sara Kuppin Chokshi, are Financial District residents who have each previously lived in Tribeca and Battery Park City; Bracamonte lives in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Everyone liked how southeast Tribeca was central to the entire city and very child-friendly.
When the Lang School opens its doors in September, it will be the only elementary 2e school in the U.S. (there’s one in Los Angeles for middle- and high-school students). There will be two classes, K–2 and 3–5, each with eight kids and a gifted teacher and a special-ed teacher; the school will also have the support staff—including a psychologist and speech-language pathologist—typical for special-ed schools. Enrollment is currently half full, with applicants coming from both gifted and special-ed programs. ”Ultimately we’ll be kindergarten through eighth grade, with 90 kids,” says Bracamonte. “We’ll need a new space, of course—this is an incubator space for us. But we’ll stay in Tribeca.” Bracamonte was previously a journalist, but she’s not daunted by the prospect of starting a school. “I was spending all my time dealing with schools that didn’t fit,” she says.
After school and on weekends, the space will shift to the Quad Manhattan. “There’s no place like this in the community,” says Busi. The Quad will teach social skills to up to 40 kids at a time, with no more than 10 in a group (with two teachers for each group). The goal is that the kids won’t even know that they’re being taught—the Quad is a recreational center where, as Busi says, “psychosocial goals are met with play.” (To that end, there will be a climbing wall—the ground floor has 24-foot-high ceilings—as well as food from Pan Latin.) The Quad opens June 14 for a 10-week summer-school session, and as with the Lang School, the organizers are looking to ramp it way up. “We want to be a national model,” says Busi, explaining that they’re starting with elementary-school kids, but they’d like to expand to include middle- and high-schoolers. “And then we want to help people open their own centers,” she says.