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P.S. 39 Henry Bristow

Grades: K-5
Staff Pick
417 6 Avenue
Brooklyn NY 11215
Phone: 718-330-9310

Our Insights

What’s Special

Great community, active parents and focus on the arts in high-performing school

The Downside

Kindergarten waitlist, quirky old building with low ceilings and bathrooms in the basement

Housed in a 19th-century building with a brick exterior and an elegant mansard roof, historic PS 39 has a peculiar interior that resembles a railroad flat. Tiny classrooms are connected to one another without any hallways. Tall teachers need to duck to get into some classrooms and the children's bathrooms for grades 1-5 are in the basement. It's a bit awkward, but the unusual layout adds to the sense of community and intimacy at this small school and leads to some innovative practices.

To make the most of the small, connected kindergarten classrooms, one is dedicated to reading and writing, its walls lined with books; another to math, where puzzles and small blocks called manipulatives abound; and a third to "center time" and social studies where children happily learn through play at different stations throughout the room.

Anita de Paz, principal since 2005 and a 1st-grade teacher for many years before that, has deep roots at PS 39: As a child she would tag along with her mother, a teaching assistant at the school.

Even the smallest children are encouraged to follow their own interests. Pre-kindergartners visited a hair salon to interview the owner and had an animated discussion about the difference between barber shops and hair salons. Children spoke to a chef at a neighborhood restaurant, then set up their own restaurant in the classroom's play kitchen.

Second-graders were designing their own communities and made town maps with keys for the local businesses "so people will know which places are there," a student explained.

For their end-of-the-year social studies projects, 5th-graders choose to research a current event or a topic from history. One group made a board game about Aztec life; another followed the issue of whether rock climbers should be able to climb cliffs without ropes. An articulate bunch, they happily discussed their projects and had plenty of praise for PS 39.

"I love this school. You get to know everybody," a girl told us. "Teachers are very understanding. None are very strict or mean."

There is no gym. Children go across the street to Camp Friendship for physical education and performances. There is an art studio and a science lab, complete with egg-laying crayfish. Students were making twirly birds out of paper. First they made one according to a set model, and tried modifications to see what would happen. The principal stepped in to show one girl that her twirly bird actually would work when it was dropped from the principal's much taller height.

The largest room in the 1877 building is dedicated to music. PS 39 students work with musicians from the New York Philharmonic, learning to compose and play their original music, which they performed to a standing room-only audience of families at Camp Friendship.

"We get to listen to the orchestra and learn with teachers who play in the orchestra," a 5th-grader said. "It lets us express ourselves in meaningful ways."

In bad weather, the ground floor music space is used for indoor recess.

As the neighborhood's population has changed, so has the school: Ten years ago nearly 70 percent of the students qualified for free lunch; in 2016 only 15 percent did. Parents actively fund raise to pay for arts partnerships and an assistant teacher; on the day of our visit, a group of parents sat at a table outside the building selling remaining items from a recent auction.

The school works to maintain its diversity; in 2012 in the midst of a rezoning of neighborhood schools, PS 39 fought to keep the westernmost blocks going down to 4th Avenue.

Popular middle school choices are MS 447, MS 51, New Voices and MS 839.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are ICT teacm-teaching classes on every grade, with two teachers, one trained in special education.

ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. In 2015 and 2016 there was a waitlist for zoned students in kindergarten who instead were sent to other district schools--most to PS 124 in 2016 but hae the right to return in 1st grade (space permitting). There are occasionally a handful of seats in the upper grades for students from outside the zone, the principal said. That's because some families come from Europe for a year or two and then return to their home countries; others move out of the increasingly expensive neighborhood as their families grow, she said. (Pamela Wheaton, June 2016; updated August 2016)

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School Stats

Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Is this school safe and well-run?

From the 2022-2023 NYC School Survey

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
82% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
84% Citywide Average

From the 2019-20 NY State Report Card

How many students were suspended?
1% Citywide Average

From this school's most recent Quality Review Report

Are teachers effective?

From 2023 End-of-year Attendance and Chronic Absenteeism Report

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
85% Citywide Average
Years of principal experience at this school

How do students perform academically?

From the New York State 2022-2023 Assessment Database

How many elementary school students scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
53% Citywide Average
How many elementary school students scored 3-4 on the state reading exam?
50% Citywide Average

Who does this school serve?

From the 2022-23 Demographic Snapshot

Free or reduced priced lunch
Students with disabilities
English language learners

From the 2022-23 School Quality Guide

Average daily attendance
91% Citywide Average
How many students miss 18 or more days of school?
36% Citywide Average

How does this school serve special populations?

From the New York State 2022-2023 Assessment Database

How many students with disabilities scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
30% Citywide Average
How many students with disabilities scored 3-4 on the state reading exam?
23% Citywide Average
How many English language learners scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
21% Citywide Average
How many English language learners scored 3-4 on the state reading exam?
12% Citywide Average

For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data · More DOE statistics for this school

Contact & Location


Park Slope (District 15)
Trains: R Line to 4th Ave - 9th St; F Line, G Line to 7th Ave
Buses: B103, B37, B61, B63, B67, B69


Sara Panag
Parent Coordinator
Rudolf Ganz Iii

Other Details

Shared campus?
This school is in its own building.
Metal detectors?

Zone for the 2019-2020 school year. Call school to confirm.

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