Private School that Supports Social Skills?

My 8-year-old son is in a large OUSD public elementary and it has become pretty clear that he needs a school with more support around social skills. He has always been an introvert and gravitates towards adults. In the 3 years he has been at his school he hasn't made any real friends. He struggles with a lot of anxiety and insecurity but also seems to have a hard time reading some social ques. Our current school does a good job of talking about being inclusive and accepting but I find that without caring capable adults on the playground to help guide kids towards these kinds of behaviors, inclusiveness isn't going to happen. We are hoping there is a private school in the area that does a good job of helping young kids with this kind of stuff. Does your private school have caring adults on the playground to help kids navigate tricky social issues? If so, please share your experience.

Thanks in advance!  

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I'm sorry to hear that your son is having struggles with friends. I can recommend Aurora School in upper Rockridge in Oakland. They have super supportive and caring teachers and staff. They have a "buddy bench" where kids can go and sit when they don't have anyone to play with. The kids know to befriend anyone sitting on the buddy bench. The school blends grades, so K/1, 2/3, and 4/5s are together and they all have teaching assistants as well. It is currently a K-5 school, but will be starting a middle school next year which we are all super excited about! The school prides itself on it's social emotional curriculum and their remote schoolhouse program has been amazing. We have nothing but great things to say about Aurora. Please check it out.  

I suggest looking at Walden Center & School in Berkeley.  I have a 4th grade boy there and have been consistently impressed with the social/emotional skills development.  The teachers and recess and afterschool staff are very involved and take time to work with the kids on relationship skills.  They also encourage the kids to develop the skills necessary to resolve conflicts themselves in a fair way.  My kiddo is introverted and often lacks self-confidence but has really found his voice there in a way I don't think would have happened in a larger school.

Hi, Our kids (1st grade and 3rd grade) go to Crestmont School ( and we picked this school for the emphasis on community-building and social emotional support. The school is a small coop with an amazing student:teacher ratio, teachers aids, support services, a school-wide emphasis on kindness and non-violent communication and meaningful fostering of inter-grade relationships. Everyone knows each others names (adults and kids alike) and in non-COVID times we have tons of community event throughout the year where we really bond as a group.  And side-note - it is likely that the school will be given the green light to re-open in the coming months. Let me know if you want to know more.  

Look into Aurora. We’ve been there for the past three years and love it. Their focus is social emotional learning. Good luck. 

My kids have social skills issues, and I have toured many private schools in the east bay. Although schools these days have an increased emphasis on inclusion, I don’t believe there is a mainstream private school that can dedicate enough resources to give what it sounds like he needs.  My unsolicited advice—I would actually recommend an evaluation from his current school district. Definitely sounds like you have reasonable grounds. Even though it sounds like he doesn’t have a diagnosis like high-functioning ASD and so probably wouldn’t qualify for an IEP, the evaluation process can be very helpful to help parents and teachers get a kid social supports they need. And the report would be useful to you a future private school if he transfers.

We have a very similar child and have him at St. Paul's in Oakland specifically because we think they excel in this area. The school uses the Responsive Classroom model and has everyone from administrators to classroom teachers to after school staff trained in the approach so that kids are hearing consistent messages and language around social-emotional skills throughout the day and across the grades. That's not to say that there is no social conflict--but in our experience staff are quick to see and use these moments as teaching opportunities, lifting up the particular strategies kids can use. In these crazy times, social-emotional learning is a hugely challenging space for schools to hold, but I've been impressed with how St. Paul's has continued to integrate the "People Power" skills into their distance learning model, helping kids name and navigate their emotions. We very much preferred to have our child in public school, but found very few schools where we could see a clear approach to social-emotional skill building across grade levels, particularly in the classroom vs. in a pull-out group. (Several identified SEL curricula that they used, but how well this was held in the classroom seemed to vary hugely by teacher.) The consistency on social-emotional supports between the school day and aftercare program was also hugely important to us--our child spends several hours each day in aftercare in normal times, and that time tends to be less structured so it's when social issues seem most likely to bubble up--and that was very tough to find. Good luck with the search!

Black Pine Circle School in Berkeley!!!

We're also at Crestmont School in Richmond.  We picked it because of it's social-emotional focus years ago for our oldest (now in 4th grade) and we couldn't be happier after all of these years.  Its built into every aspect of the curriculum, so all the kids pick it up.  It gets worked into how the play on the playground as well with how they talk to each other and react when someone is hurt (physically or emotionally).  The teachers there are some of the best trained and most qualified I've ever met.  They spent the summer doing courses about "teaching through trauma" to help the kids deal with all that 2020 has brought so far.  Amazing.

We've been at The Berkeley School for the several years and social/emotional learning is great. I have an extroverted/sensitive kiddo and I've appreciated how much the teachers and staff have understood what he needs emotionally and have helped him grow. I'm really proud when I hear him talk about treating others with respect and how we're all different and special. Smaller schools have an advantage in this area. The Berkeley School are other great attributes and it shines particularly well in this area.