From the hardwood floors to the twinkling chandeliers, the gargantuan two-story building on the corner of Stuyvesant Avenue and Decatur Street reeks of history.
Although currently under construction, the space is considered the future home of Freebrook Academy, whose name derives from freedom and Brooklyn but also a brook of freedom. It’s a private school set to open this upcoming fall.
“Bed-Stuy is a great neighborhood and deserves to have a quality private school,” said Monique Scott, 29, founder and director of Freebrook Academy. “It needs to be something open to the community.”
Once known as a senior center, the space now serves the neighborhood as a school during the day (8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.) and as a community center after hours. The program consists of lower school (Kindergarten – 6th grade), upper school (7th – 12th grade), and all school (all students work as a class), with 45 enrollments.
Her own daughter who turns four this Friday enrolled in the Academy where classrooms are no larger than 15 and break down to seven to eight kids per class as they mature.
With smaller class sizes, all students receive individualized attention. Teachers conduct bi-weekly assessment meetings to chart progress and assign homework tailored to the child’s interests to help the student improve in the classroom.
“It can be anything from writing a comic book, because that works on literacy,” said Scott.
The private school costs $8,000 to attend but offers Democratic Progressive education – similar to a Montessori education in that it supports individual attention and growth of students in mixed-age classrooms.
The benefits of a mixed-age classroom are that students become a support system and mentor for one another.
“It allows them to humble themselves because a younger student might know more than they do,” said Scott with a chuckle. The most significant difference however is that in a Democratic Progressive school, there are also student and teacher directives.
“Students co-teach electives and are encouraged to suggest changes to better curriculum,” said Scott.
There is a curriculum, but there are no grades and standardized testing.
“It allows children to have intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic,” said Scott. “It allows students to go further than people’s expectations.”
Based on a community, cultural, and social justice foundation, students apply learned knowledge to the neighborhood. “It’s important to examine buildings, architecture, nature in our backyard.”
In lower school, students are taught by teachers with either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in their field. Upper school requires teachers to possess either a master’s or Ph.D.
“Teachers don’t have to be certified at Freebrook,” said Scott. “We want teachers who know how to teach progressively or who really know their content, not to teach what they were taught to teach.”