About Us » Our History

Our History

69 years ago, The Castlewood School opened its doors to the children of WWII veterans who moved into the area because of all the affordable apartments.  P.S 186 was named Castlewood by the Board of Education because at that time the neighborhood had many wooded areas on the hills surrounding Grand Central Parkway and the school stood like a castle among those woods.


The school was only two stories high, with 1,300 students in grades K-8. Due to the overcrowding, there were two sessions of school, some kids came from 8 to noon, and other kids came from noon to 4.  Soon after, the 7th and 8th graders went to nearby junior high schools and the school switched to a single session. Years later, junior high schools were renamed Middle Schools and the 6th grade classes went to MS 67 and MS172. Today, we are a Prek through 5th grade school.


The first principal, Henry Poliakoff, made a speech 69 years ago in which he stated, “A school represents the embodiment of our faith in democracy and in democracy’s future. In a democracy, the school has a responsibility for developing not only the pupil’s mastery of the three R’s, but also his appreciation of the values of democracy and must provide for better human understanding, acceptance, and sharing of responsibility.


Our school has produced students who uphold these characteristics for the past 69 years, under the guidance of great teachers and principals. In 2014, two of our teachers, Liz Cageao and Tamara Restrepo, worked on creating a school time capsule. The Student Council worked with, Student Advisor at the time, Janet Rotela to decide what to put in the time capsule.




-Denise Verde


Former PS 186 Principal John R. Holst
June 29, 1940 - May 19, 2024
Mr. Holst was born June 29, 1940, in NYC to Betty & Rudolf, grew up on 87th Street and proudly attended Stuyvesant High School.
After graduating CUNY with his Bachelor’s degree of Political Science & Government, he continued to Queens College for his Masters of Supervisory Education.
For more than 2 decades he influenced thousands of young lives as Science Teacher and Assistant Principal at P.S. 257 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
In the 1970’s he spent weekends and summers at the Hall of Science, Corona NY, teaching “Science Adventures” at the Little Red School House and curating exhibits.
Finally, in 1984, his dream of becoming principal was realized when he was appointed principal of P.S. 186, the Castlewood Elementary School, in Queens NY. There he spent 18 years challenging the children & teachers to “Reach Higher!”
After retiring from the NYC Board of Education, he immersed himself in golf, treasure hunting and spending time with his grandchildren, whom he adored. Eventually his passion for science and gardening led him to the Marine Nature Study Area in Oceanside in April of 2008.