Check Out The $40 Million Renovation That Turned A NYC Horse Stable Into A Cutting Edge School

stephen gaynor school, students readingStudents at the Stephen Gaynor School participate in the buddy-reading system, where older students read to younger ones.

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No matter where a student is sitting in a classroom at the Stephen Gaynor School on New York’s Upper West Side, he will hear the teacher’s voice in the same tone.

Teachers at the school for students with learning disabilities wear a special device that distributes their voice through speakers around the classroom, so that every student feels like he is in an intimate conversation with his instructor.

It’s just one of the many pieces of technology the Stephen Gaynor School implements to help its students.

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The school recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and completed a $40 million renovation on a former Carriage House that now houses its preschool and middle school. It’s around the corner from the elementary school on West 90th Street.

The school started with five students in 1962, and has now ballooned to 300. The staff has also grown to about 120 employees. Tuition is $49,600 a year for middle schoolers, although financial aid is available.

“Our main objective is to make sure the culture of our school, giving students individualized help, stays,” said school head Dr. Scott Gaynor, who recently took us on a tour of the facilities. Gaynor’s grandmother, Mimi Michael, along with Yvette Siegel founded the school.

There are around 11 students in each classroom, with a head teacher and an assistant teacher instructing. The hallways were noticeably quiet, and everyone seemed hard at work.

The curriculum at the school is heavily infused with exercise, art, and photography to help stimulate self-confidence, and to use the parts of the students’ brains that are normally overactive in children with disabilities, Gaynor said.

Unlike in mainstream schools, where art and gym time are often kept to a minimum, at the Stephen Gaynor School they are a priority, Gaynor said.

“Exercise helps the students focus in the classroom by expending energy,” Gaynor said. “Massive amounts of studies have been done showing that even a quick walk around the block can help a student concentrate in the classroom.”

By the time all of the renovations are done, the school will have a glass-enclosed rooftop playground, a four-story glass enclosed bridge connecting the two buildings, and a research centre with a librarian and writing coach.

Here's what the building on 89th Street looked like when it was the Claremont Riding Academy.

Welcome to the new Stephen Gaynor School, founded in 1962. This year, the school moved into new facilities in a former carriage house on 89th Street.

These barn doors may look big, but they're light enough for the middle school students to open. The building is considered a landmark, which means its exterior had to be preserved.

Right now the school is housed in two separate buildings around the corner from each other. By 2013, there will be a covered bridge connecting them.

Here's what the school will ultimately look like.

The staircases have horseshoe imprints in the cement, an homage to the building's roots.

The preschool area has warm lounge areas. Everything is clean, modern, and minimalistic.

Books are stacked throughout the school as a way to encourage students to read.

There are even student kitchens. Gaynor said cooking classes for preschoolers were important because it helped them learn to follow directions. In some cases they even stop being such picky eaters, he said.

The kitchen has a sink at preschoolers' height level.

School starts between 8 and 8:30 every morning, and dismissal takes place between 2 and 3 in the afternoon.

There are no locks on the lockers, because the school wants to foster a trustworthy environment.

The lunchroom is designed to accommodate the different ways students socialize. There's a large table for a group of eight, and smaller tables for groups of four or two.

The counter is the perfect spot for students who might want to eat alone, but still want company close by.

Students bring their own lunch and snacks, but there are microwaves to heat items up. The staff also grabs snacks in the kitchen.

The art room has long tables to help facilitate collaborative learning and sharing.

The students are currently working on umbrellas.

The art room has a kiln that will be set up soon.

The school has maths resource rooms, occupational therapy rooms, and occupational speech rooms to give students individualized attention.

In the photo lab, students learn about composition of photos and spend time editing images.

The art and photo classes work together on projects through the school year. The two studios are next door to each other.

The brownstone that housed the school until 2008 had a circular staircase. The new school has an open staircase as well, to help teachers communicate and give students some exercise.

There's a cafeteria in the elementary portion of the school, too.

The floors all have acoustic materials built in to help absorb the sounds and aid concentration for the students.

The instructors try to make the library a friendly place, but students are not required to check out books.

Check out how schools are run in other countries.

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