Dos Puentes Elementary School
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Dual language program with unusual degree of parent involvement
New school has no track record
Experienced leadership, a carefully crafted curriculum, and a cohesive staff that's fully bilingual in English and Spanish make Dos Puentes one of the most promising new schools to open in recent years. Dedicated to teaching children to read, write and speak fluently in both languages, the administration and staff have fostered an unusual degree of parent involvement from both Spanish- and English-speaking parents.
Founding principal Victoria Hunt, who received her doctorate in bilingual education from Teacher's College, taught for many years in the dual language programs at PS 165 and PS 75, where she was also assistant principal. What distinguishes Dos Puentes from those schools is that the whole school is dual language, while those schools have just one class in dual language.
The school is firmly in the progressive camp. There's time for play, with dress-up corners and toy kitchens in kindergarten. Children are encouraged to explore their own interests, to read books they choose themselves, and to speak as much as they listen. "If the teacher is the only one talking, they aren't going to learn the language," says Hunt. All children, even as they grow older, have choice time, a time when they may choose to read, write or draw, to play with blocks or Legos, or to explore science projects.
Field trips enhance childrens' experiences. Educators from the Bronx Zoo work with Dos Puentes teachers to create a science curriculum that includes activities not only at the zoo but also at outdoor spaces near the school.
Opened in 2013, Dos Puentes shares an old but well-kept building with PS 132. Halls are covered with childrens work. Each grade has two general education classes and one ICT class (a class with two teachers and a mix of children with special needs and those in general education.) Each class has an intern college student from City College or Teacher's College. While the school has no track record—it only had grades k-2 at the time of our visit—itseems to be off to a terrific start.
Families (including the pre-school brothers and sisters of children enrolled at Dos Puentes) are invited to sit in on classrooms for a little while every other Friday. The language of instruction alternates each day, and the day of our visit, all instruction was in Spanish. Dozens of parents came to work on projects with their children: Younger children were constructing gingerbread houses, while older ones interviewed their parents for essays about their family histories. Classroom visits were followed by a chat with Hunt, who welcomed and introduced a family who had just enrolled their children that day, having arrived from the Dominican Republic. Hunt then shared the schools goal's for the coming year.
The meeting with the principal was held in Spanish, with translators on hand for English speakers—asign of the school's commitment to ensuring Spanish doesn't get short shrift and that Spanish-speaking parents feel welcome. One of the goals for the year was to decrease tardiness but, rather than criticizing parents for bringing children to school late, Hunt invited parents to converse with one another, then to share aloud their tips for getting children to school on time. Both Spanish- and English-speaking parents offered suggestions such as insisting on an early bedtime, laying out school uniforms the night before, or planning to leave the house 15 minutes early.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers ICT classes as well as SETSS (special education teacher support services) occupational therapy, speech, counseling and physical therapy. A full-time reading specialist works with small groups of children.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned neighborhood school. Parents who live in the attendance zone may choose either PS 132, which has a traditional English-only curriculum, or Dos Puentes. (Clara Hemphill, December 2015)Read more