Ed. and circus

The Big Apple Circus is in town, and school is in session

Sarah Shatz

Some kids have all the luck. Take 13-year-old Christian Atayde Stoinev. Like most boys his age, he's up around 7:30am, eats breakfast and sneaks in a few minutes of scoring video-game touchdowns before his mom or dad hurries him out the door to school. But after only three hours of toiling over a ninth-grade workload, Christian calls it a day.

"I usually spend the rest of the afternoon in the circus tent, watching rehearsals while I do my homework," he says, oh-so matter-of-factly.

Along with five other kids, Christian attends the mobile One Ring Schoolhouse, an ordinary-looking white trailer that's parked near the Big Apple Circus tent behind Lincoln Center. This school year, six children of Big Apple Circus members—Christian's classmates include one first-grader, two second-graders, a fifth-grader and a sixth-grader—are hitting the books in the roughly 10-by-25-foot space, which is outfitted with desks, white boards, two computers and a library. (Happily, there's no room for a principal's office in this certified New York State charter school.) But make no mistake, it's not all juggling and handstands: Teacher Melody Courtney, who is in her second year with the school, runs a tight ship.

"She's nice, but she doesn't like us talking, and she gets mad when we goof around too much," says Christian, who has attended the school since the third grade. So does he ever wish he went to a regular school? "Not really. I went to a normal one for four months in the sixth grade. I liked it, because the other kids thought it was really great that my family was part of the circus, and that I could walk on my hands and do back flips. But this one is better," he says, citing the short day of classes. Free afternoons have many advantages—including plenty of time to practice the hand-balancing act that he performs in the ring with Scooby, his pet Chihuahua.—KEITH MULVIHILL