Aurora School Updated Review -- Pandemic

We applied to a few private elementary schools. We are familiar with the campus of other schools as we have visited the schools a few years ago. We have not visited Aurora and have no idea how much / what type of outdoor space they have. Are there outdoor classrooms? How has the in-person instruction been during the pandemic? We'd be joining the school with no existing friends, if we are admitted to the school. It seems that the school community looks friendly. It's the only school that is doing outreach to us. So, we feel warmer toward Aurora at this time. If you are an Aurora family (current or recent), I'd love to hear about some positives and some things that you wish were better at the school. We are really hoping that our kids get to attend a school in-person in an environment that we feel are managing the pandemic well and safely. Are enrichment classes happening? Replies both public and private are all welcome.

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Hi there! Our 2 kids (2nd and 4th grade) have been at Aurora School for 4 years, and we are really happy with our decision to move there and never looked back. We love that Aurora has very strong academics while still focusing most importantly on joy-based learning and educating the whole child. Personally, I find that Aurora has a little bit of everything without being too focused on any one area, as the best progressive schools do. It's not rigid, not soft, but "just right." They emphasize social-emotional learning (including stress management), music, art, STEM, Woodshop, Spanish, Yoga & PE, theater, and do this all with having really strong Math/Language Arts/Social Studies. We especially appreciate the emphasis on developmentally appropriate social justice and inclusivity. In normal times, they offer fun electives like cooking, etc. during after-care. Most importantly of all, we have found a level of warmth, love, and dedication from the teachers there that we hadn't experienced in previous schools. My children are opposites, yet both have thrived. Let me try to answer your specific questions in order:

-Outdoor Space: Aurora has 3 separate outdoor play areas, including a blacktop for balls with built-in play structure & sandbox, a "greenspace" with turf on a converted tennis court for PE & other games, and the so-called Garden Forest, a favorite nature space of the kids where they play among trees & build fairy houses. See Instagram!

-In-person instruction: We've just gone back full-time for the 2nd time this February after the second lockdown was lifted and case counts declined, and it's been going really well for us so far, and they do not intend to close again until the county requires it. The 3 play areas outside are great for rotating cohorts. The kids are thrilled to be back, even "masked and distant." Classes are mostly inside, except I think for perhaps music (there are tents over the picnic tables for outdoor work in most weather) but inside, wall-to-wall windows are open, desks spread apart, air filters/fans in every class, and small class sizes allow for naturally distant groups. They've opted to offer full remote learning simultaneously, so the kids whose families opted to remain home for health reasons are "beamed" into the classroom for live instruction and can interact with the class. Our small school size has been a blessing! The teachers are generally far into the vaccination process, by and large.

-Community: Even in Covid times, they pair new families up with experienced families to meet masked and distant outside of school for play dates to get to know a friend before starting. Our eldest came in mid-year and felt very welcome, despite being very shy. There've been several new kids even during remote learning who all integrated quickly. Friendship is a priority. The parent base is non-competitive and kind.

-Pandemic response: The remote learning program was/is amazing. Full-day live instruction; it was astonishing to watch it unfold in real-time. Safety-wise, they are doing things by the book according to up-to-date CDC and county guidelines. We test once a week and are required to quarantine if we travel or are exposed. Kids and staff are masked at all times (designated outside areas for mask breaks). We do a daily temperature and wellness questionnaire to screen for symptoms. 

Out of space! Best of luck! :)

I am a current parent.  My son graduated from Aurora last year, and my daughter is currently in the 3rd grade.

To answer your questions:

There are no 'outdoor classrooms' per se, but the kids eat lunch outside and there is a playground area and a green space up the hill they use.

My child recently went back to in-person learning and it has been the same as prior to the pandemic, which is very good.  The class sizes are small and the kids get a lot of attention and can work in small groups.  During the pandemic when there was remote learning I was extremely impressed with the quality of the instruction.  Again, it really helps to have a small class size.  I'm not sure what you mean by enrichment classes, but if they are after-school classes I do not know because my child does not attend them.

Some pros:

Small class sizes

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is really taught - it's not just a buzzword.  The kids learn about different perspectives and continually see things through others views.  The teachers attend a lot of training in this area and it pays off.  My child will talk about things that I was totally unaware of at her age.

Quality of administration and staff - the teachers my children have had are intelligent, caring and kind individuals.They do a great job of balancing the needs of your child with the group as a whole.

The kids learn to write at an early age and I think in general the reading and writing program is strong.

Community: the vibe you are getting is warm because the community is warm.  Everyone is welcoming and I have never felt excluded or not welcome.  I think this is a huge strength of this school.

Some cons:

I think the curriculum is mostly appropriate.  I would say the only thing that could be improved on is the math curriculum.  It seems a bit experiential, I would prefer in some cases to 'learn the algorithm' and move on.  However, for many of the learners at this school it works - I think it is personal preference.

Playground size: I think it is a bit small, but since they added the green space it's a lot better.

Summary: In general I think a lot of Aurora and I would highly recommend it, especially during the pandemic.  My son graduated last year from Aurora after having several months of all remote learning and was mostly well-prepared for middle school.  My daughter has been remote since last March (?) and recently went back to in person learning.  I feel like she has not 'lost a year' due to the pandemic and she has been highly engaged in her classes even though they were all ZOOM classes until recently.