BHS is too much for freshman with learning differences

We have a 14-year-old freshman at BHS and it is becoming markedly clear already that BHS is just going to be too much (or not enough, in some respects) for him. We've had another child go through BHS, so we know the deal. 

Our child has dealt with severe anxiety/depression throughout the pandemic, which has gotten much better but he still struggles a lot with anxiety at school. Remote learning was a sum-zero situation for him. Just didn't work; he doesn't learn via Zoom. He struggles with ADHD—executive function and auditory processing are especially challenging for him and he is already failing most of his classes at BHS. He does not have any behavior problems at school.

Until distance learning started in middle of 7th grade, he was an A and B student. In elementary school he was always really good at math and a passionate reader. Writing has always been a bit challenging for him. He's a very social kid when he feels comfortable; he really wants to be around his peers as much as possible.

We are looking at both Bayhill and Orinda Academy in search of a smaller, calmer, more supportive learning environment where he can get a bit more individualized attention and some help with executive function. We'd love to hear from parents who considered both of these schools, or are at one or the other and can speak to how it is serving their child's needs.

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Though I have little experience with Bayhill or Orinda Academy, I highly recommend Holden High. It is small, extremely supportive and many kids are like yours. My child is really beginning to thrive, is highly engaged in her classes and has found kind, supportive friends and teachers

Our son is quite similar to your son from the description you wrote. We considered Bayhill and Orinda Academy last year for his first year of High School to start this year. I will start by saying that regardless of what my husband and I thought about either school, our son did not have buy-in, so neither school ended up anywhere past the online introductions or Zoom welcome for parents considering the school. He ended up at Oakland Tech (he had imagined going there since he was young) and we are working with his teachers for his IEP accommodations. It's far from perfect, but we are muddling through.

Both schools seemed to be quite on-point about bringing students through their programs with lots of teacher-led support and allowing students to work at their own pace. Both schools differ in class size and programs that occur outside the classroom. Both had administrative staff that were engaged and friendly. We liked the arts programs and teachers we saw online for both. Orinda appeared to have a robust social interaction model. We dealt with Bayhill more and saw the campus in-person in Jan of 2020, and felt that they would be a good fit for our son. We did not have a chance to visit Orinda Academy in person but I sense they had more outdoor spaces.

I really think it will come down to his interest, which school environment he thinks might feel more comfortable to him, how much stress or anxiety he will experience if he has a long commute, if he feels curious or drawn to either, etc. 

Hope that helps. Good luck with the search.

My son has started his third year at Orinda Academy. He is thriving there. The teachers and administrators are skillful and supportive, the environment is calm, and small classes mean individualized attention. The curriculum is the same standard curriculum as BHS and they have honors classes for kids who need more of a challenge.  There is none of the hallway chaos that caused so much hyped up behavior and anxiety at larger schools. I highly recommend OA. It saved our kid. 

My daughter attended Orinda Academy and loved it! She struggled with anxiety, like your son, but immediately felt comfortable at OA and looked forward to going to school each morning. The classes at OA are small and they teachers do a good job of tailoring their classes to the abilities of each kid. My daughter was well-prepared for college (and just graduated.) The only downside of the school that I saw was the size - there aren’t many clubs or sports to choose from - and the boys outnumbered the girls significantly.

We looked at both Bayhill and Orinda Academy and selected OA. It was hands-down the better choice for us after my student did a shadow day at both. Bayhill had a lot of behavior problems, externalizers, and was a noisy and chaotic environment according to my anxious and sensitive kiddo. OA is a calm, supportive, and caring environment with excellent academics. We've been incredibly impressed by the teachers. Although we've not used the counseling staff, Coyote Coast works out of OA. Happy to talk to you more if interested if you DM me.