Park Slope's Highly-Regarded P.S. 321 Welcomes Back Students

By Leslie Albrecht on September 6, 2012 5:35pm 

PARK SLOPE — For mom Jackie Andrade, the wait to see whether her son Noah would get a seat at P.S. 321 was "agonizing," she said.

In a neighborhood brimming with high-performing public schools like P.S. 107 and P.S. 39, P.S. 321 on Seventh Avenue between First and Second Streets is generally considered among the best — not just in Park Slope, but in the entire city.

Families praise the school's active, well-funded PTA, dedicated corps of parent volunteers, high-quality teachers, and committed principal Elizabeth Phillips for creating an atmosphere that's both welcoming and academically rigorous.

But the school's excellent reputation has created demand, and families now base home-buying decisions on whether they'll be in the coveted P.S. 321 zone.

When Andrade, a 30-year neighborhood resident, registered Noah for school using a P.O. box address, she had to submit to a home inspection to prove her son was actually eligible.

The two-month wait for word that Noah could attend the school was filled with anxiety, Andrade said, but on the first day of school on Thursday, both mom and son were all smiles.

"The school is fantastic — the teachers, the PTA, everything," a beaming Andrade said as Noah, 5, joyfully hugged friends at morning drop-off. "I just wish there was a school like this for every neighborhood. You hear other people's stories and you cringe and you count your blessings."

Not all parents gushed about the school. Dad Richard Ryea, father of 9-year-old McCartney, said he'd prefer it if P.S. 321 had a gifted and talented program. "I think it's a fine school, but I wish it had more avenues for gifted," Ryea said.

P.S. 321 has grown more crowded in recent years, and the school has used trailers as classrooms to avoid having to put students on waiting lists. But dad Brian Lockner, father of first-grader Avi, said he doesn't feel the crowding has affected his son's education.

"It's packed to the gills, there's no question," Lockner said. "But at the same time I don't feel in any way my child's experience has been compromised. It's well organized and it feels manageable. I can't speak to what the quality of the education was 10 years ago before Park Slope boomed but right now we're happy. The school isn't resting on its laurels."

Lockner, a real estate developer, said his company recently completed a new residential building catering specifically to P.S. 321 families.

Located on Union Street, the building is mostly three-bedroom units, he said. "We built three-bedroom knowing that parents with young children would want to move to the neighborhood because of P.S. 321."

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