P.S. 163 Alfred E. Smith
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Dance, science, dual language
Integrating four tracks is a work in progress
PS 163 has two lively pre-kindergarten classes, an impressive dance program, and teachers who know how to challenge top students while giving struggling kids the support they need.
Its gifted and talented program is open to children from across District 3. PS 163 has a popular dual language program designed to make children fluent in English and Spanish, as well as general education classes and team-taught classes for children with special needs. The Parents Association works hard to bring children in the school's different programs together with weekly clubs such as macramé, cooking, running or filmmaking.
The attendance zone for PS 163 includes housing projects and luxury housing and, unfortunately, the school is somewhat divided by race and class. The G&T classes are mostly white and Asian, especially in the younger grades; the dual-language classes have a mix of mostly white and Latino; and the general education classes and the team-taught classes are mostly black and Latino.
The school faces a budget quandary—it's not quite poor enough for federal anti-poverty grants called Title I, but not rich enough to have the Parents Association raise a huge amount of money. There is some friction between the administration and staff: In his first years at the school, Principal Donny Lopez, who took over after longtime principal Virginia Pepe retired in 2013, got low marks from teachers on annual surveys.
Nonetheless, most parents seem satisfied. "Our girls are challenged without being stressed or overwhelmed," a mother with two children in the G&T program wrote on the InsideSchools website. "We like that the kindergarten is academic but also allows the kids center time so that they can enjoy being kids."
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Team-taught classes mix children with special needs and children in general education in one classroom.
ADMISSIONS: PS 163 is a neighborhood school. Admissions to gifted and talented classes are according to Department of Education guidelines. Dual language fills with zoned children. After a family shows interest, the school does an evaluation to establish language dominance. "We continue to go down the wait list until the end of October," said the parent coordinator. (Lydie Raschka, December 2015)Read more