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Park Slope

This family Shangri-La's bad reputation is merely a conspiracy to keep the crowds at bay.

Entitled parents. Bratty, “gifted” kids in organic T-shirts. Yes, yes, we’ve heard it all about these brownstone-lined blocks, which march east from Fourth Avenue to Prospect Park West and south from Flatbush Avenue to the Prospect Expressway like phalanxes of beautiful, well-behaved children. Slope families are happy to have you believe anything but the truth—that their neighborhood is a diverse, community-oriented enclave with access to very decent sushi and a cleaner, less-crowded version of Central Park—if it means they’ll have a better chance of getting their kids into P.S. 321.

Take the N, R to Union Street or the F to Seventh Avenue, and you’ll quickly feel like you’ve walked into a Todd Parr children’s book: Every kind of family strolls the sidewalk here. And while New York City as a whole is no stranger to diversity or celebrity, in Park Slope those aspects have a very PBS feel—as if you, the stay-at-home dad, the gay mom and Maggie Gyllenhaal were all guest stars on some tasteful kids’ show.

Fun shops

Superboys and Wonder Girls can try on capes in front of a wind machine to see how they’d look in action at the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.(372 Fifth Ave, 718-499-9884). That feature alone is enough to sell us on the spot, but push back a secret set of shelves and—kazam!—you’ll find yourself in the hidden headquarters of 826NYC, a nonprofit writing program for kids ages six to 18, cooked up by onetime Brooklynite Dave Eggers.

If your tween is into knitting, she’ll love fingering the skeins at Stitch Therapy (176 Lincoln Pl, 718-398-2020), a cozy nest just off the crowded Seventh Avenue sidewalk. Less calm but equally appealing is the tiny, overflowing Toy Space (426 Seventh Ave, 718-369-9096), where busy mothers and fathers buy non-tacky gifts (think Haba wooden trains and Rody inflatable horses) on their way to a birthday party. Newer moms make regular pilgrimages to Boing Boing (204 Sixth Ave, 718-398-0251) to stock up on breast-feeding supplies, try on slings and carriers, and purchase Sophie La Girafe ($20), the nontoxic-rubber teething toy that every self-respecting Park Slope six-month-old must own.

Good eats

If your self-confidence has been shaken by that nursing-bra fitting at Boing Boing, get a little lift at Tea Lounge (837 Union St, 718-789-2762), where maternity-leavers rock their newborns in shiny Stokke Xplorys and sip much-needed cappuccinos.

Parents of older kids—who are presumably operating on more sleep—can head just a few blocks away to Two Boots Brooklyn (514 2nd St, 718-499-3253). This über-family-friendly outpost of the Cajun-Italian joint hosts frequent pizza-making parties for local boys and girls (paper toques included). The happy hullabaloo peaks early on weekend nights, all the better to muffle the occasional wail.

If you’re feeling fancier, head to Blue Ribbon Brooklyn (520 Fifth Ave, 718-840-0404), a rare upscale brasserie that welcomes the under-12 set. Adults can throw back oysters and a glass of verdicchio, while tots work on BLTs and root beer floats (never mind that said float costs $8.75). The Perch Café (365 Fifth Ave, 718-788-2830) caters to its kid-carrying clientele with regular sing- and drum-alongs and “children eat free” nights. Besides the frequent entertainment, Perch offers a healthy kids’ menu—the chicken fingers are baked, not fried, and come with fresh carrot sticks or broccoli—and hit-the-spot sandwiches like the wasabi tuna salad with radish, tomato, mesclun and homemade pickles. You don’t need to walk more than two blocks anywhere in the Slope, however, to find a fab eatery. Some honorable mentions: Bar Toto (475 Sixth Ave, 718-768-4698), Café Steinhof (422 Seventh Ave, 718-369-7776), Aunt Suzie’s (247 Fifth Ave, 718-788-2868), Mary’s Fish Camp (162 Fifth Ave, 718-783-3264), and Johnny Mack’s (1114 Eighth Ave, 718-832-7961).

What local families do

They hang out in Prospect Park, of course. Slopers are fanatical about their 585 acres of green playland, and every parent has a favorite corner of the Frederick Law Olmsted–designed grounds. “We love the Third Street Playground the best because it’s more secluded and less crowded,” says Jessie Randall, a mom of twin boys who also takes early-morning family walks in the Long Meadow, where the dog can run off-leash before 9am. Parents of the barely walking head to the Garfield Tot Lot for the pint-sized equipment, and older kids prefer banging on the giant xylophone at Harmony Playground. The Carousel (open April through October) and the zoo are popular attractions, but it’s the grass, birds, trees and lake that draw most families. “I love knowing that my girls can have a daily break from being city kids,” says Park Sloper Lise Engber.

Report card on the schools

The best-known area school is P.S. 321, on Seventh Avenue between 1st and 2nd Streets (check out the flea market held in its playground every weekend). But that’s not the only game in town, assures Joyce Szuflita, a Park Slope mom and Brooklyn school search consultant (nycschoolhelp.com). South Slopers are especially proud of P.S. 10, on Seventh Avenue at 17th Street. “Instead of focusing on the one school that everyone wants to get into,” Szuflita says, “parents are working on improving the ones that might have been overlooked.”

Neighborhood schools

Elementary school
P.S. 321 William Penn School
180 7th Avenue, Park Slope. 718-499-2412. Grades K--5.
What's special: Ramped up attention to math has strengthened an already powerful academic curriculum.
Downside: Large, overcrowded school.
Reading scores: 5/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
For decades, PS 321 has been regarded as one of the finest elementary schools in the city. Known for its strength in teaching reading and writing, the school is now making a push to fortify its math and science programs, elevating them to the same level as the literacy curriculum.

Middle school
M.S. 51 William Alexander School
350 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope. 718-369-7603. Grades 6-8.
What's special: Rich arts curriculum.
Downside: Math and science offerings need more rigor to match humanities classes.
Reading scores: 5/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5/ stars
Long known as a school with a strong humanities program and outstanding performing arts, MS 51 draws many of District 15's highest-achieving students.

High school
H.S. 460 John Jay High School
237 Seventh Avenue, Park Slope. 718-788-1514. Grades 11--12.
What's special: Prime location in Park Slope.
Downside: Chaotic atmosphere; one of the worst drop-out rates in the city.
John Jay High School, a long-troubled, large neighborhood school that became a school of last resort for students from all over Brooklyn closed in 2004.

Elementary schools

Hellenic Classical Charter School
646 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope. 718-499-0957. Grades K--5.
What's special: Instruction in Greek language, history, and culture.
Downside: Small size limits enrichments and services.
Reading scores: 4/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
In a city filled with new public schools testing an array of ways to educate and teach students, the Hellenic Classical Charter School is surely one of the most novel. The school, which emphasizes Greek language and culture, grew out of the Soterios Ellenas school, a longstanding Greek-Orthodox parochial school that now houses Hellenic Classical, too.

P.S. 10 Magnet School For Math, Science and Design Technology
511 Seventh Avenue, Park Slope. 718-965-1190. Grades K--5.
What's special: Inclusive, barrier-free school with good literacy program.
Downside: Focus on literacy may be taking away from needed emphasis on math.
Reading scores: 4/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
Concetta Ritorto, principal of PS 10 at the time of Insideschools' last visit, retired in December. Laura Scott, assistant principal of the school for five years, was named interim acting principal. Before coming to PS 10 Scott was a special education supervisor in District 15.

P.S. 107 John W. Kimball School
1301 8th Avenue, Park Slope. 718-330-9340. Grades K--5.
What's special: Excellent arts programs & parent involvement.
Downside: Building constraints: no gym or auditorium.
Reading scores: 5/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
Located on a prime piece of real estate on elegant 8th Avenue in Park Slope, little PS 107 used to be considered a poor stepchild to its bigger, popular neighbor PS 321. But a change of leadership, burgeoning relationships with arts groups and a return to the school by neighborhood parents, have transformed PS 107.

P.S. 124 Silas Dutcher School
515 4th Avenue, Park Slope. 718-330-9320. Grades K--5.
What's special: Small class size, cozy feel, and good math and reading instruction.
Downside: Cramped cafeteria and gym.
Reading scores: 4/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
"This school is a secret, it really is," says Karen Lane, a school librarian and former reading teacher, who has been a presence at PS 124 in Park Slope for 13 years.

P.S. 282 Park Slope School
180 Sixth Avenue, Park Slope. 718-622-1626. Grades K--5.
What's special: Strong music and art, plus gifted program.
Downside: Atmosphere may be too strict for some.
Reading scores: 4/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
PS 282 has a strong music and art program, a science room with animals, a room just for chess, a fabulous gym and physical education teacher, and a spacious, well-kept building with lots of room for children from outside the zone.

P.S. 295 The Studio School of Arts and Culture
330 18th Street, Park Slope. 718-965-0390. Grades K--5.
What's special: Fantastic arts and dance curriculum.
Downside: Despite its recent facelift, old building still has some constraints: no real gym or play yard.
Reading scores: 4/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
PS 295 has unusually strong programs in music and art and a super-involved group of parents. The nonprofit organization Arts Connection brings music, visual arts, and dance to the school and classroom teachers incorporate the arts into many lessons.

P.S. 321 William Penn School
180 7th Avenue, Park Slope. 718-499-2412. Grades K--5.
What's special: Ramped up attention to math has strengthened an already powerful academic curriculum.
Downside: Large, overcrowded school.
Reading scores: 5/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
For decades, PS 321 has been regarded as one of the finest elementary schools in the city. Known for its strength in teaching reading and writing, the school is now making a push to fortify its math and science programs, elevating them to the same level as the literacy curriculum.

P.S. 372 The Children's School
512 Carroll Street, Park Slope. 718-624-5271. Grades K--5.
What's special: Classes mix special education and general education students.
Downside: School is housed somewhat awkwardly in two buildings.
Reading scores: 5/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
The Children's School is a pioneer in "inclusion"; the practice of integrating disabled children in the same classrooms as pupils in general education.

P.S. 39 Henry Bristow School
417 6th Avenue, Park Slope. 718-330-9310. Grades K--5.
What's special: Innovative administration, loads of enrichment opportunities.
Downside: Tiny classrooms, limited after school programs.
Reading scores: 5/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
For many years, PS 39, a tiny elementary school in a red brick building in Park Slope, went largely unnoticed. With many neighborhood parents choosing to send their children to schools outside their zone.

Middle schools

M.S. 443 The New Voices School for Academic & Creative Arts at PS 295
330 18th Street, Park Slope. 718-965-0390. Grades 6--8.
What's special: Rich arts and strong academics.
Downside: No physical education for 6th graders; limited after-school sports.
Reading scores: 4/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
Housed on the top two floors of a 100-year-old elementary school building, New Voices has a rich arts program, strong academics, and a family-like atmosphere.

M.S. 51 William Alexander School
350 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope. 718-369-7603. Grades 6--8.
What's special: Rich arts curriculum.
Downside: Math and science offerings need more rigor to match humanities classes.
Reading scores: 5/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
Long known as a school with a strong humanities program and outstanding performing arts, MS 51 draws many of District 15's highest-achieving students. The pride of the school is its "talent" program.

M.S. 88 Peter Rouget School
544 7th Avenue, Park Slope. 718-788-4482. Grades 6--8.
What's special: Young, energized teachers; internships and arts programs.
Downside: Low parent involvement.
Reading scores: 3/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
Rich arts programs, honors classes, and a strong teaching staff make MS 88 an increasingly attractive alternative to District 15's selective.

Secondary School for Journalism
237 7th Avenue, Park Slope. 718-832-4201. Grades 6--12.
What's special: Model UN program sends kids abroad.
Downside: Some dingy classrooms; metal detectors.
Reading scores: 3/5 stars
Math scores: 3/5 stars
One of three 6-12 schools in the John Jay Educational Complex, the Secondary School for Journalism offers middle and high-school students a structured environment.

Secondary School for Law
237 7th Avenue, Park Slope. 718-832-4250. Grades 6--12.
What's special: A 6th-12th grade program.
Downside: Limited Advanced Placement courses.
Reading scores: 2/5 stars
Math scores: 3/5 stars
John Jay Secondary School for Law is one of three small schools in the building that once housed John Jay High School, a failing school that closed in 2004. With freshly-painted apple-green and sky blue hallways and a bright, renovated lunchroom.

Secondary School for Research
237 7th Avenue, Park Slope. 718-832-4300. Grades 6--12.
What's special: Dedicated faculty and administrators committed to developing student leadership and core academics.
Downside: Dispiriting building with metal detectors at entrance.
Reading scores: 2/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
Principal Jill Bloomberg contacted Insideschools to update the school's four-year graduation rate, which rose to 74 percent in 2008, she said. Budget shortfalls have led to larger classes in the small (100 students in three grades) middle school, but each middle-school class is led by two teachers.

>High schools

Secondary School for Journalism
237 7th Avenue, Park Slope. 718-832-4201. Grades 6--12.
What's special: Model UN program sends kids abroad.
Downside: Some dingy classrooms; metal detectors.
Reading scores: 3/5 stars
Math scores: 3/5 stars
One of three 6-12 schools in the John Jay Educational Complex, the Secondary School for Journalism offers middle and high-school students a structured environment.

Secondary School for Law
237 7th Avenue, Park Slope. 718-832-4250. Grades 6--12.
What's special: A 6th-12th grade program.
Downside: Limited Advanced Placement courses.
Reading scores: 2/5 stars
Math scores: 3/5 stars
John Jay Secondary School for Law is one of three small schools in the building that once housed John Jay High School, a failing school that closed in 2004. With freshly-painted apple-green and sky blue hallways and a bright, renovated lunchroom.

Secondary School for Research
237 7th Avenue, Park Slope. 718-832-4300. Grades 6--12.
What's special: Dedicated faculty and administrators committed to developing student leadership and core academics.
Downside: Dispiriting building with metal detectors at entrance.
Reading scores: 2/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
Principal Jill Bloomberg contacted Insideschools to update the school's four-year graduation rate, which rose to 74 percent in 2008, she said. Budget shortfalls have led to larger classes in the small (100 students in three grades) middle school, but each middle-school class is led by two teachers.

H.S. 460 John Jay High School
237 Seventh Avenue, Park Slope. 718-788-1514. Grades 11--12.
What's special: Prime location in Park Slope.
Downside: Chaotic atmosphere; one of the worst drop-out rates in the city.
John Jay High School, a long-troubled, large neighborhood school that became a school of last resort for students from all over Brooklyn closed in 2004. The building now houses several 6th-12th schools.

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