The Community Column: PS/IS 217 Parent Teacher Association

Written by Erin Olavesen. Posted in Volume 37, Issue 9 - January 21, 2017

Erin Olavesen
Erin Olavesen
President, PS/IS 217 PTA
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When the New York City Department of Education established our Island’s public school 40 years ago, it didn’t take long for Island parents to come together to form the PS/IS 217 Parent Teacher Association (PTA). According to newspapers from the time, these pioneering parents worked with local community groups to host a carnival to fund the school’s arts program and purchase art supplies.

While the school’s PTA has evolved over the past 40 years, its core mission remains the same today: to support the needs of our students, faculty, and administration. In fact, the 217 PTA still hosts a fall carnival to raise money for our school, and the bulk of our fundraising still supports enrichment programming. We also still deeply value and believe in the strong bonds that must exist between the school and the rest of the Island community. The PTA receives support and sponsorship from our local fire department, Public Safety Department, the library, and almost every business on the Island. We also partner with many Island organizations to bring unique and enriching programming to our students.

Beyond the Classroom

Now, at nearly the midpoint in the school year, every student at 217 is either in the midst of a PTA-funded enrichment program or is gearing up for a new one. These residencies allow students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of concepts covered in classrooms. In partnership with the Main Street Theater & Dance Alliance, for example, our students are learning to write and perform musicals, practice ballroom dancing, and experience festival dancing of West Africa. Our youngest students benefit from weekly Music Together enrichments as well as yoga and movement classes.

iDig2Learn, a gardening program on the Island, gives our second graders an opportunity to get their hands dirty and develop a deeper understanding of our environment. We’ve also partnered with Island Kids to bring new after-school-programming to the younger members of the 217 student body. And our partnership with Cornell Tech allows us to support computer science in every grade.

Part of the Community

In addition, the PTA board includes members of the RIRA Common Council and represents the school on the Roosevelt Island Community Coalition, ensuring that our school community remains an active member of the Island community.

Working with the 217 administration, the PTA is also bringing volunteer support to classrooms during the school day. We recently hosted volunteer training at which 25 parents and close family members became certified Learning Leaders. We’re excited for these volunteers to not only be placed in classrooms to assist teachers but also to provide further opportunities to stimulate the minds of our children in inventive, creative ways. One example is the Maker Space which will soon open and be run and maintained by our Learning Leader volunteers.

Come Visit

Want to learn more about the school? The PTA co-hosts tours for prospective families along with the school administration, to give potential newcomers the perspectives of current families. We encourage all Island parents to attend a tour to learn about the school. We are always happy to answer questions parents have concerning choosing a school for their children. Our next tour, on January 31 at 8:45 a.m., is geared toward families interested in learning about our kindergarten program. Our February 17 tour (8:45 a.m.) will focus on the 217 PreKindergarten program. More tours will be offered in April to give information specific to the 217 Gifted and Talented Program.

How Can You Support 217?

For parents of children in PS/IS 217, attending PTA meetings is a great way to learn more about what activities and events are being planned, and how the school and PTA are working to ensure students are being provided with educational opportunities and an environment that promotes an enthusiasm for learning. Let us know if you have an hour to give each week. Consider becoming a tour guide for prospective parents, or helping with the setup and cleanup of PTA events and activities.

For local businesses, consider sponsoring enrichment programs, or donating to the annual auction. Reach out with ideas in areas where there can be further collaboration between the community and the school.

And, for other members in our community, know that we consider you to be our extended family! Many of our events are open to the entire Roosevelt Island community. For example, the upcoming Winter Wonderland Dance on February 11 is open to all families looking for a fun night out together. Our annual Silent Auction & Spring Fling on March 25 offers many unique items and experiences to bid on, and is also open to everyone. The PTA also hosts the Annual International Food Fair in May. There are many opportunities for our amazing Roosevelt Island extended family to gather together and enjoy being connected as a community. To learn more about the PS/IS 217 PTA, please visit, and follow us on Facebook and twitter (@217PTA).


Erin Olavesen, President


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Tags: Community Column PTA

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