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By KAITLYN MEADE | When parents enrolled their sixth graders in the brand new school at 55 Battery Place, they acknowledged that they were taking a gamble — one which undoubtedly paid off, if the warmth of the graduation ceremony was anything to go by.
Cameras flashed and words of wisdom were dispensed, in the time-honored tradition of all graduations, as the first eighth grade class walked across the stage of I.S. 276 on June 21. The Battery Park City School opened its doors in 2010, one year after the first kindergarten class started at Tweed Courthouse. The K-8 was built in response to a desperate need for Downtown school seats, but it quickly grew into one of Lower Manhattan’s most beloved schools.
“Three years ago, most of us came together for a journey,” said Principal Terri Ruyter. “Some of you joined us en route.” She reminded the gathered assembly that the best journeys are not always easy, but they are challenging and inspiring.
“We took a risk coming to an unknown, half finished school…” said Jack Sarmiento, one of the two student speakers at the ceremony.
The other student speaker, Sophia Penney, said that she had been anticipating a terrible first day, when her parents moved Downtown midway through her sixth grade year.
“OK, I’ll admit it, I’ve only been here for two and a half years,” she joked. “But honestly, I feel like I’ve been here forever… I am so proud to be graduating from this school….
“Terri knew how awkward my first day could have been and so she had a welcoming party set up for me,” she said. “I think that’s why this place is so great. We all had welcoming parties, even if we didn’t know it.”
Penney will be attending The Beacon School in the fall. Several of the 62 graduates made it into one of the city’s top schools such as Stuyvesant High School in B.P.C., and many of them will be attending the Financial District’s Millennium High School.
“They kept saying you’re taking a big chance on a new school like this, but look at it… This was our first choice,” said Kate Gyllenhaal, whose daughter Ajda is an I.S. 276 grad and will be attending Millennium in September.
Ajda’s father, Umit Celebi, said, “We used to drive by, going, ‘Will it be finished in time?’”
He also said it was amazing how quickly the school had put itself on the map in athletics, despite starting out with teams composed only of sixth graders and a coach, Jon Carey, who noted that the school’s first year was also his own first year teaching.
From basketball games against “bearded eighth graders” to the entire grade taking a trip to the Frost Valley YMCA camp in the Catskills, many students and teachers spoke fondly of the unity of being a small school, just starting out.
“The thing I learned about this school is that it is one of the few places in the city where you’re a part of a family, no matter who you are, inside and out,” said Gabriel Gonzales, standing with his beaming parents, Yelitza and Antonio, at the reception.
Gabriel will be attending Brooklyn Tech next year, bolstered by I.S. 276’s use of technology and computers in classrooms.
“I think everyone loves this school,” said Yelitza. “Terri is the best… The school is a big family, more than a regular one.”