take aways from the Manhattan high school fair on Sunday

I was at the fair in Manhattan today—got there at 12—and was surprised at how mellow it felt. Not crowded, some tables had no one talking to reps. Harvest Collegiate and NYC iSchool had super busy tables and lots of people manning them. Beacon had one person and zero materials. Bard, NEST, Clinton, ElRO, Beacon, Lab, School of the Future were all there. Some schools sent parents and no adults from the school and they weren’t prepared to ask super specific questions (turns out, as my son pointed out, I know more than most people out there). But, I couldn’t find a single specialized school.  Aeveral school already ran out of brochures. 

I spoke to lovely people and learned some things I didn’t know—below are my quick take aways in alphabetical order, for no other reason than a way to organize. Whenever I could I asked kids about what they liked/didn’t like about the school and noted that below in italics. And I checked out some schools I don’t generally follow - those are noted in purple.
Would love to hear what you learned at the fairs, if you’d care to share. 
Clinton: they call their program IB for all, as in everyone can take IB classes but you don’t have to get an IB diploma. If you take less IB classes, you can get a certificate.
Columbia Secondary: all 4 grades take philosophy. Kids start engineering classes in 7th grade but kids who start in 9th aren’t missing out. Focus changes every year. LAST YEAR they had 45 spots for incoming freshmen.
Essex Street Academy: they don’t have regents courses. They do project based work instead. No big tests. Classes switch every semester. Lots of electives. 
Frank Sinatra: 3 periods a day are classes in their art major. All kids take 4 core classes. There are 9 periods in a day. Half the kids at the school take at least one AP class. They look for kids who are passionate about their art form.
Gramercy Arts High School: I remember seeing this place a few years ago when they were just starting out. People at the table didn’t know how the school different from LaG or Art and Design. But, for fine and performing arts kids, this could be worth checking out. Also, it’s in Union Square: http://gramercyhs.org
Manhattan Hunter Science: The occupy the entire 5th floor of a shared location school. Liked: small number of kids at the school. Didn’t like: lots of homework gets piled on at the end of a semester and teachers don’t coordinate testing schedules. SUPER IMPORTANT! They have their own application you MUST fill out and get to the school by 12/3. You can find it, and instructions, here: http://www.mhshs.org/application.html - a teacher I spoke to said even with the most fabulous grades, test scores, etc., if you don’t submit this application, you’re dropped to the bottom of their ranking system.
Manhattan Village Academy: Yes they wear uniforms but there are options to choose from. No, they don’t have a website. All communication between the school, kids, and parents is via email. One student told me that freshman can take up to 3 AP’s (I wonder about this). Liked: solid academics. Didn’t like: workload got intense. They hand out a flier saying preference will be given to those who attend an open house, but that’s not a thing anymore. Their materials must be out of date - couldn’t get anyone to confirm that. No reservations needed for their open houses:
Friday, October 19, 6-7:30pmSaturday, October 20, 11-12:30pmFriday, November 16, 6-7:30pmSaturday, November 17, 11am-12:30pm
Millenium Manhattan
: the junior I spoke to was from Queens and when I voiced surprise that she wasn’t in Manhattan, she said many kids she knows are from other boroughs, even Staten Island and the Bronx. Last year’s HS directory says 99% of offers went to kids south of Houston and then Manhattan, but she said there were kids from all over at the school. Perhaps they got much more popular with Manhattan families last year, but I thought that was curious. 
NYC Museum School: they don’t got to museums once a week, but do 4 week museum modules. 
Pace: No website. They communicate to students and families via Pupil Path. They do a 2 day trip to Pace University with incoming freshman the summer before school starts. Liked: small classes, lots of teacher support. Didn’t like: crowded hallways, not enough time to get to classes
PPAS: 
 It’s much smaller than LGA and it’s a combo middle/high school. Kids can work on location but need permission of the school first. They have an open house all are welcome to on October 16 at 6pm. There will be performances so get there early to get a seat. 
Quest
They are now an ed opt school. To handle the range of learners in a general classroom they generally have 2-3 teachers co-teaching. In AP classed there’s just one teacher. 
Talent Unlimited: Kids take 4 core classes all four years. They offer 5 AP classes as well as College Now classes at Hunter College junior and senior year. They also offer online classes and try to accommodate students who go on auditions or have parts in projects.