Recent experiences at OHDS?

We're considering OHDS for our children and I'd love to hear about others' recent experiences there. What is the community like particularly for a secular family? What downsides should we be aware of? How does the school handle incoming students who are not in kindergarten and haven't yet had much exposure to Hebrew and judaic studies? Have you been satisfied by how the school differentiates for bright students as well as kids with mild learning challenges such as ADHD? What is the social experience like for students who don't start in kindergarten - is it easy to make friends? Thank you so much in advance! 

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RE: Recent experiences at OHDS? ()

Hi there! We've loved the school for our daughter. We started in 1st grade. Our daughter has some mild learning issues and hadn't gone to Kindergarten due to the pandemic. She started with not much exposure to Hebrew and couldn't read English either. The first grade teachers were exceptional in their ability to meet her where she was at and help her gain confidence and catch up within the year. In the following years, every teacher we've had has been wonderful. I have an older kid who went to secular school, and she's never had a teacher as good as any single one of the OHDS teachers. In our experience, they are remarkably good at what you've asked re: differentiated learning. Oh--and making friends in 1st grade was not hard--everyone was super welcoming, and because it's a small community, she knew everyone quickly. I often forget she wasn't there from the start.

The other question you asked is complicated--about being a secular family. Our family is very engaged Jewishly but not Orthodox. As I mentioned, the community is very welcoming of everyone, and that's regardless of Jewish practice. It hasn't interfered with making friends. And I love how much she is learning! That said, there have been several ways our kid has felt "different" being there as a non-Orthodox kid. I've known other kids in the community who haven't felt that, but she's really perceptive to difference. We have to support her through it regularly. One thing to know is that you have to work harder to make weekend playdates/sleepovers happen if you don't attend one of the Orthodox synagogues or live within walking distance. It feels really different in that way than it does having a kid at a secular school. All in all though, it feels worth it to us and to her for the wonderful education and community!

Good luck with your choice!

RE: Recent experiences at OHDS? ()

Our kids started at OHDS in 5th and 6th grade and our family has been so happy with our decision to send them there. They've been to two other schools before we moved to Berkely - one public elementary school and one other Jewish Day School. This has been the best experience we've had with any school in terms of the quality of the leadership, teachers, and community. The families and kids have all been exceptionally warm and welcoming to all of us and the kids have made friends quickly and even taking on leadership roles in the school. Both of our kids have learning differences and areas of real strength, and I've been overwhelmed by the support of the Director of Learning Support, who is knowledgeable, caring and supportive; and also been impressed by the extent to which all of the teachers do their best to see the kids strengths and growth areas, and meet kids where they are - whatever they might be. While our kids did have a couple years of Hebrew and JS experience from their other day school, they were not (and still are not yet) at the level of most of the other students. The school is good about integrating new students in the Judaic Studies (JS) and Hebrew programs, and also modifying and adding support as needed. Other amazing things about the school include their music and art programs.

A few downsides to be aware of: 1) The school is small and some of the grades are very small. This can feel limiting socially. They address this a bit by creating a larger feeling in Middle School through combining kids in different grades in classes like JS electives and arts/sports electives as well as in leveled classes like math. 2) As a family committed to egalitarian practice we can sometimes feel uncomfortable with the non-egal Orthodox school practices such as dividing boys and girls for morning prayer starting in 5th grade. That said, they are very honest upfront about where this will be happening, and there are so many strong women in leadership including service leadership. 3) As a non-Orthodox family, as the other poster said, our kids can sometimes feel outside of the social circles that happen naturally on Shabbat mornings around the Orthodox synagogues in Oakland and Berkeley. They've gotten very good at knowing how to navigate this - even sometimes showing up at these synagogues to find friends. 

We have been really happy with our choice to send the kids there overall. I hope this is helpful. Wishing you the best of luck in your search and decision.