P.S. 170 X (The Esteban Vicente Early Childhood School)
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3-K through 2nd grade; dance, swimming, puppetry and theater arts
No outdoor play space; ends after 2nd grade
PS 170 on Townsend Avenue in the Bronx, is an arts-focused early childhood school serving 3-year-olds (3-K) through 2nd-grade students. Located around the corner from the Mt. Eden Avenue subway stop, it shares a building with High Bridge Day Care, an early education program. Hallways are narrow and there is no outdoor playground, yet PS 170’s teachers have years of experience working with young children, and students get a chance to dance, swim and act in theatrical productions.
The school has a safe and orderly tone according to school surveys. Teachers tend toward traditional and academic lessons rather than play-based learning. Hands-on projects and art take place mostly in special classes such as puppetry or circus arts rather than during regular classroom time, the school secretary confirmed by phone. This is an approach valued by parents, who say they like the attention paid to math, reading and writing skills here.
PS 170 has long been committed to the arts, which they say help boost academic achievement, social skills, creativity and self-esteem, according to the school's yearly plan. The school has had a long and fruitful partnership with Marquis Studios, an arts organization working in NYC public schools. In puppetry workshops, children create their own characters and settings, and write scripts, connecting writing, art and reading. Marquis also provides classes in visual arts, percussion and circus arts, and there is an established partnership with the Bronx Museum of Art.
Classroom teachers work with the dance teacher and Marquis Studios to launch an in-depth study of a country, such as Mexico or Italy, culminating in a show that features dance and presentations reflecting what the students have learned. Additionally, there is a classical ballet program for select students who show promise and interest. The dance teacher has steered participants to Ballet Tech and School of American Ballet, among other programs, according to the school website.
Teachers pay careful attention to children's language needs. Those who speak only Spanish are placed in bilingual classes and are introduced to English gradually. Once their grasp of English is stronger, they may switch to English-only classes with extra help in small groups.
There is no outdoor play space but children may play games, chat or watch movies in the cafeteria during recess. Second graders swim at the New Settlement Community Center.
Enrollment is down—due in part to more charter schools in the neighborhood that go through elementary, middle or even high school age—although, the secretary said PS 170’s numbers often increase by the end of September. A 3-K class opened in fall 2019, and a pre-k will follow in September 2020, further stabilizing enrollment. Students move into 3rd grade at one of several neighborhood schools depending on their zone.
ADMISSIONS: The zone for PS 170 overlaps with PS 294 and PS 311. Some students from PS 199 and PS 70 also have priority depending on their address. The school has had space for applicants in recent years, the school secretary said, although the 3-K class was full when we spoke by phone the first week of September. (Lydie Raschka, web reports and interview, September 2019)