JCS FAMILY HANDBOOK
LETTER TO FAMILIES
Dear Jaguar Families,
Welcome Back for the 2022-2023 School Year!
I am beyond thrilled to become a part of the Jamaica Children’s School family. My name is Michele Cespedes and I am happy to introduce myself as the new Interim Acting Principal. Dr. Remy and I have worked in collaboration to provide a smooth transition for our families and students. District 28 is my home, where I have spent most of my teaching career. Coming back to South Jamaica warms my heart. I started out as a teacher at P.S. 80, then moved on to mentoring and coaching teachers, and finally becoming an administrator. Most recently I was Assistant Principal and Acting Principal at P.S./I.S. 295 in District 29. My career in education spans over 27 years. I always make decisions based on what makes sense and what is best for our students.
My other “job” is that of being a mom to my two children, Isabella and Anthony. They keep me busy attending sporting events in the evenings and weekends. I can assure you that I will get to know all of our students as if they were my own.
I look forward to meeting each and every one of our members of the Jaguar Community. I know we will all work together to ensure our students succeed and have a safe, nurturing and engaging learning environment. Again, thank you for this opportunity!
Michele Cespedes, Principal
Leonardo Tabbita, Assistant Principal
Tawana Ford, Payroll & Pupil Accounting Secretary
Sarita Ramgulam, Parent Coordinator
Kindergarten Instructional Team
Andrea Vassell Pone
First Grade Instructional Team
Second Grade Instructional Team
Third Grade Instructional Team
Enrichment Instructional Team
Melina Marino - Visual Arts
Phillip Onesto - Physical Education
Lisa Lu - English as a New Language
Angela Soriente - K-3 Science/STEM
Student Support Team
Elizabeth Coffin - Social Worker
Roselle Coley - School Psychologist
Nadine Francois - SBST Social Worker
Kimberly Lawrence - Family Worker
Stephanie Flory - Speech Therapist
Katiana Francois - Occupational Therapist
Melissa Batalla - Physical Therapist
Silica Collins - School Aide
Stephanee Norton - School Aide
Razia Sultana - School Aide
Full Day: 8:05 AM – 2:25 PM
Half Day (Parent Teacher Conferences Days): 8:05 AM – 11:20 AM
Jamaica Children’s School, PS 312
109-20 Union Hall Street
Jamaica, Queens 11433
Jamaica Children’s School, PS 312
Subscribe to our YouTube Channel at Jamaica Children’s School
MISSION AND CORE VALUES
At Jamaica Children's School, we challenge all children to think critically and independently, collaborate, take risks, and take ownership of their learning. Students engage in joyful exploration, inquiry-based activities, complex tasks and self-reflection. Through these aspects and individualized support, our students develop the innovative and critical thinking, conceptual understanding, self-advocacy, and student agency necessary to discover their passions and lead with empathy in our complex world.
We care about others and strive to understand and share their feelings.
We are passionate about our goals and bravely overcome obstacles to achieve them.
We are curious and continuously ask questions to reach new understandings.
We challenge ourselves, and others, to look at the world in innovative ways.
We express our ideas, feelings and beliefs, and advocate for ourselves, and others.
COMMUNICATING WITH TEACHERS AND STAFF
We encourage open and frequent communication between school and home. There are several ways to communicate with your child’s teacher:
Send a message via Class Dojo to your child’s teacher
- Class Dojo is our main communication method CURRENTLY. There you are able to receive up to date school information/notices, message your child’s teacher directly, and track your child’s behavior. You can also communicate with administration as well.
- Beginning in school year 2022/2023, we will be using the GAM system from NYCDOE. On this system, you will be able to communicate with teachers, see your child's grades and progress, and track your child's attendance.
- Parents are encouraged to download Class Dojo to communicate with their child’s teacher between the hours of 7:35 AM to 2:25 PM. Please allow time for the teacher/staff to respond to you as teachers are instructing out students during the school day. If you need to contact a teacher immediately, please call the main office and they will relay your message.
Send a note in with your child in his or her homework folder
- This is the method you should you use if you have something the teacher needs to hear about during the school day, e.g., change in the dismissal plan, as he or she might not check e-mail during the day.
E-mail your child’s teacher
- Feel free to e-mail your child’s teacher, using his or her DOE e-mail address. E-mail is a useful, paper-free way to ask quick questions, report on routine events and set up meetings. It is not the best forum for lengthy discussions, important topics or sensitive issues.
Set up a meeting
- You may set up a meeting with your child’s teacher if you have something you would like to discuss. Teachers are glad to meet with you. Please keep in mind that there are many children in the class and a regular meeting with one family is not possible. Please keep any discussions at dismissal to a minimum, as the teacher is concentrating on getting each child to the correct adult.
Please speak to your child’s teacher about any classroom issues or concerns before bringing them to the principal. The teacher is the best person to address your concerns, as he or she is closest to the issues.
In all cases, our school policy is that the Jamaica Children’s School staff will get back to you by the end of the next business day, if not sooner.
Gifts for Teachers
Families often wish to express their appreciation for their child’s teachers by giving a gift. Teachers appreciate the gesture and are generally very touched and grateful. However, there are Department of Education guidelines that govern gift-giving to any school employee and is summarized below.
- Families may not be required to give, or contribute, to a gift. Class parents should not pressure families in any way to contribute.
- Gifts from individual families should be principally sentimental in nature and of small financial value.
- Teachers may not accept cash.
- Class gifts may be given, as long as it comes from the whole class and individual contributors are not listed.
- Families should not be asked to contribute a large amount.
FAMILY INFORMATION AND ENGAGEMENT
We are committed to creating an inviting, collaborative relationship between the school staff and our students’ families. We have put in place initiatives to involve and inform families.
Family Fun Fridays
Each Friday at 1:55 pm, we hold a Family Fun Friday. This year, we are back in person. At each event we celebrate our Jaguars as a school community. We welcome parents and friends in joining us in this celebration. The following activities take place:
- Student Mantra
- Student of the Week
- Principal's Report
- Country of the Month Presentation
- School to Home Connection Activity
First Friday of each month, we celebrate:
- PASSION Student of the Month
- Perfect Attendance Students
- Most Improved Attendance Students
At Publishing Parties, students share their writing with their families and their classmates. These celebrations serve as a culminating activity for a particular unit of study in writing. Teachers will reach out to you with specific dates and times.
Teachers will involve families in the classroom in several ways. Teachers may ask parents to volunteer to help with the projects and plans for celebrations. Teachers may also ask for parent volunteers for other classroom activities, e.g., reading, art projects, or sharing family traditions.
Parents will also be involved in school-wide activities, projects, and initiatives. Requests for school-wide volunteers will be sent home.
We look forward to hosting various events throughout the school year like a potluck, ice cream social, and holiday concerts. Please keep an eye out for notices in your child’s folder.
You will virtually attend FOUR formal parent conferences a year (September, November, March, and May) with your child’s teacher. Each family will schedule an individual 10-15 minute conference with their child’s teachers. November and March Conferences are scheduled in both the afternoon and in the evening. September and May conferences are only in the evening. During conferences, the teacher describes your child’s progress, explains his or her strengths and challenges, and gives you suggestions about how to help your child at home. Please come with any questions you might have. Your child’s teacher may ask to meet you at other times during the year, and you may request a meeting as well.
You will receive three report cards a year (November, March, June) during your family conference. Report cards can be found on the NYSCA account. Please ensure that you access to your account. Should you need assistance, please contact Ms. Ramgulam at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The purpose of homework is to extend and reinforce classroom learning and to develop in children a sense of self-discipline, responsibility and independent thinking. All homework assignments are purposeful and related to class activities, as well as to individual children’s interests, needs, and abilities. The focus of students’ homework is reading and math. Please see Homework Policy.
Our students actively engage with the outside community, where field trips connect to our teaching and learning. Trips range from walking and observing around our immediate community, to visiting museums, to taking larger trips with lots of planning involved. Your child’s teacher will notify you well in advance of the trip and ask you to sign a permission slip. Please return the permission slip and any applicable fees in your child’s communication folder. Children who do not have signed permission slips will not be able to go on the trip. Approval must be in writing and may not be given over the phone. This is a Department of Education requirement.
Chaperoning a class trip is a great way for you to be involved with your child’s class. We reach out directly for volunteer chaperones for field trips. When you chaperone a class trip you will be responsible for a small group of children including your own child. You are responsible, along with the teacher, for the safety and security of the children in your group.
Many parents enjoy going on trips with the class. Sometimes the volunteers outnumber the need. If that is the case, we will make sure that those people who cannot go will go on a future trip.
SCHOOL RELATED ORGANIZATIONS
The PTA is a vital part of our school community. Our active, creative, and engaged PTA works to make all families feel welcome and raises funds to enrich the education of our children.
All parents are welcomed and encouraged to work with the PTA toward improving and enriching the educational resources for our children and promoting good home, school and community relations.
Families are invited to attend monthly PTA meetings to stay informed about the school’s instructional programs, hear updates from our principal, learn about upcoming events, and find out how parents can help the school better serve all students. PTA meeting dates, times, and location will be determined. More information on the PTA is found on our website.
The School Leadership Team (SLT) is the primary school-based vehicle for parents to work with teachers and the principal to establish school priorities, ensure that the budget is aligned with those priorities, and evaluate our school’s progress.
The SLT is comprised of parents, teachers, the principal, the PTA president and the UFT Chapter Leader. The SLT develops the Comprehensive Education Plan (CEP) that sets annual goals for the school in all areas and sets up systems to measure achievement of those goals. The SLT meets monthly in our conference room on the 4th floor. Dates for SLT meetings will be posted on the school website and advance notice will be provided on ClassDojo and school website. More information on the SLT is found on our website.
Community Education Council (CEC)
The CEC is designed to be a voice for all parents of students in their district. Each CEC consists of 11 voting members: 9 parents elected from each district by the “Parent Selectors” (PTA/PA President, Treasurer, and Secretary), and 2 members appointed by the Borough President. The twelfth member is a nonvoting high school student. The term for each Council is two years, beginning on July 1st.
The Community Education Council for District 28 conducts at least two meetings every month, which include a Working Business Meeting and a Calendar Meeting. All meetings are open to the public. During Calendar Meetings, time is allotted for the public to address the Council with issues involving the education of the children in District Two. Notice of these meetings will be distributed to the public and all schools in the district.
School Safety Committee
Our School Safety Committee develops the School Safety Plan outlining all the safety procedures in the school. Monthly meetings are held to review and discuss our Safety Plan.
Our school has full time security staff to maintain the safety and security of our school building. Everyone who enters the building must show photo ID and sign in with the Security Officer. Please always follow the directions of the Security Officer, as he or she is responsible for the safety of our school building and children.
When you come to the school, please enter and exit through the front entrance doors. All visitors will be issued a school badge which must be worn during the entirety of your visit. You must go directly to the Main Office in Room 424. At the end of your visit, please return the badge to the safety officer’s desk.
Deliveries to Students
If you need to bring something to school that your child needs or has forgotten, please come to the security desk. The safety agent will contact the main office to ensure that your child receives the item. If you need to occasionally drop off lunch for your child, you may bring it to the office. However, this should not be done on a regular basis. If sending a lunch from home, please ensure that your child brings it with them to school.
Emergency Contact Cards
Family Emergency Contact Information is required by the New York City Department of Education. In case of an emergency, we MUST have more than one WORKING phone number (other than your home number) and a contact person who can be reached if you are not available. Complete the EMERGENCY CARD immediately and return it with your child. EMERGENCY INFORMATION MUST BE UPDATED REGULARLY TO REFLECT YOUR CURRENT STATUS (e.g. PLEASE NOTIFY THE SCHOOL OF ANY CHANGE IN YOUR HOME ADDRESS, WORK NUMBER, EMERGENCY CONTACT PERSONS, ETC.). PLEASE REMEMBER THAT THE SCHOOL WILL RELEASE A CHILD ONLY TO THOSE PERSONS LISTED ON THE CHILD'S EMERGENCY CARD. ALL STUDENTS WILL BE SENT HOME BLUE CARDS.
Please complete the online blue form so we may have up to date contact information.
Evacuation Drills and Shelter Drills
Evacuation (Fire) Drills are practiced throughout the year to help guarantee our students’ safety. Your child’s teachers will explain and practice the procedures with the children in advance of any actual drill, so that they are not startled and will know what to do. Children also practice “Shelter In” and “Lock Down” drills, both of which will be explained in detail to parents at our Family Orientation meeting.
Illness and injury
We appreciate your assistance in helping to prevent the spread of illness in the classroom. If your child exhibits any of the following symptoms or health issues, please keep him or her home for at least 24 hours from the end of the symptom(s) or the beginning of medical treatment: fever, vomiting, diarrhea, conjunctivitis (pink eye), any contagious illness, e.g., chicken pox, flu, strep throat, impetigo.
If a child becomes ill or injured at school and needs to be sent home, the licensed nurse on staff will notify you.
Medication can be administered to your child only if the school has a current form (called a 504) on file. School staff members, including the school nurse, are not authorized to administer over-the-counter medications, such as Tylenol, allergy medicine, cough syrup, or eye drops, unless this information is included on a 504 form. If your child has asthma it is imperative that you complete the form so that nurse can treat your child in school.
- Dogs are not permitted in the school
- Smoking is not permitted anywhere in the school
- Alcoholic beverages are not permitted in any DOE school
Check out more information on our COVID-19 Updates page.
Children need to play outside. Research and experience show us that kids are more alert and engaged when they have had enough outdoor play time. Students play outside daily, unless there is rain, snow, or temperatures are below freezing. Please make sure that your child brings appropriate outdoor clothing. It is helpful to label gloves, hats, and coats to prevent loss.
We cannot take requests to place your child with a particular teacher, or in class with particular children. There are many factors we take into consideration when making up classes and we need the flexibility to place children where we think they will do best. Although we understand the inclination, we are not able to honor such requests.
Items that should not come to school
We would like school to be a safe, collaborative environment focused on learning. Please do not send your child to school with: toys, games, candy, gum, electronic devices other than DOE-issued i-pads, money, Heelies, open toed shoes, or anything that could be misconstrued as a weapon, e.g., water guns. These items can cause disruption and hurt feelings within the class. In some cases, your child’s teacher may permit some of these items in school for curriculum purposes, to ease separation, or for some other classroom-related reason. They will contact you directly in those instances. A child’s toy, etc. may be confiscated and held in the assistant principal’s office for pick up at the end of the school day.
Consent to Photograph, Film or Video Tape
We love to highlight students as they work, perform, or receive awards. Please sign and return the consent form to your child’s teacher so that we can celebrate their successes and share them with you.
In the event of a snowstorm, or other citywide emergency conditions, the Chancellor will announce the decision to close schools throughout the city. The announcement will be broadcast on news services, radio and television stations. An announcement will also appear on the Department of Education website, www.schools.nyc.gov. The same information will posted on the school website and ClassDojo. Teachers will provide students with assignments on Google Classroom and meeting information. (i.e. Zoom/Google Meet link)
We learn about a variety of holidays through our social studies curriculum. Families will be invited to share some family traditions with their child’s class. We host holiday-themed community meetings, where families are invited to participate.