Storefront Academy South Bronx Charter School
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Two teachers to a classroom; support for children and families
Awkward facility with no real gymnasium
Storefront Academy Charter Schools - South Bronx is a small kindergarten to 5th grade school that has an extended school day. It offers lots of adult attention and support for its students, many of whom face serious challenges.
Unlike many charter schools, Storefront actively seeks out English language learners and children in temporary housing; bilingual staff members who live in the Bronx spread the word in housing shelters, for example. Yet current parents are the best advertisement: “People talk about us on the streets, and we are known to be a very welcoming community,” says assistant principal Yoselyn Fernandez.
Storefront offers an array of supports for students that go beyond academics, from a clothes washer and a supply of lightly used clothing, to time set aside every morning during which children may share what’s on their minds. The school also offers English as a second language classes for parents and works with Yale’s RULER program to build social and emotional resilience in children.
“A lot of these kids have seen a lot,” says Nicole Garcia, CEO for Storefront Academy Charters.
All children take a social emotional class every week. In these classes, the school’s counseling team focuses on six core values, including honesty and perseverance, and how to apply them. “We’re constantly exploring and seeking new ways to learn more about how to nurture the whole child,” says principal Carol Singletary.
Classes have 25 students with two teachers. Often, special education and English language teachers also work with select students in a classroom, so at times a room might have four adults. In addition, three teachers provide individual help and extra instruction inside and outside the classroom so all students can perform academically to the best of their ability.
Tables in classrooms are arranged in groups to promote discussion among students. We saw a 1st grade teacher ask her class to weigh in on whether a character in a book was good with animals, while a 4th grade teacher urged her class to look for evidence. “We’re detectives,” she said.
Along with their core academic subjects, students take physical education, music, art, technology and Spanish once a week. Violin lessons, as well as after school help and enrichment, are available. Teachers take students on trips to such places as the Bronx Zoo and Museum of Natural History.
On our visit, children seemed friendly and engaged. Some had been rewarded with a visit to a video game truck parked outside the school, so spirits ran high.
Storefront opened in 2015. It then moved five times—four in one year—before moving into its current facility in April 2018. That building, a repurposed warehouse that Storefront shares with a daycare center, has limitations—there is no gym and the school is spread among five floors—but murals and bulletin boards help make it welcoming.
Storefront traces its history to 1966 when poet Ned O’Gorman founded a preschool in Harlem that eventually became a tuition free private school with pre-K through 8th grade. The Harlem school is now a charter.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers integrated team teaching classes with a mix and general and special education students, as well as other services. A report by the State University of New York Charter School Institute said the school was making improvements to its programs for students with disabilities.
ADMISSIONS: Children are selected by lottery, with most enrolling for kindergarten. The school admits older children to fill any vacancies in grades 1 through 5. (Gail Robinson, March 2020)