Reviews of Redwood Day, Park Day, BPC, Aurora, TBS

As we are closing in on admissions to independent schools, I wanted to see if anyone had RECENT reviews of the schools in this area - mainly Redwood Day, Park Day, Black Pine Circle, Aurora and the Berkeley School.   I understand that each school has their own feel, and a parent's decision should be based upon what you want for your specific individual, unique child.  But I am interested in what current parents' thoughts are in these schools - did each school live up to everything that was advertised?  Were your kids/are your kids happy in their environment?  I would really appreciate honest and candid thoughts from current parents.

Many thanks everyone! 

Parent Replies

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We have a child in the elementary school at Aurora. 

* Did the school live up to everything that was advertised?

Yes. We were looking for a warm and welcoming community with individualized attention, exceptional differentiation, project-based learning, ample opportunities for kids to find their own voice. The school truly meets each child where they're at. 

* Were your kids/are your kids happy in their environment?

Yes. My child truly appreciates Aurora. Having switched from another school, they can clearly see how much better their life has been since joining Aurora. They are sad on weekends / breaks because they don't get to go to school.

* + for Aurora

Mixed grade has been incredibly valuable. Mixed grade classes offer a sibling like experience, an extended family feel. My kid's friends include kids who are 2 years younger and older. The school also has partner pal program for kids outside their cohort to connect as well. 

Differentiated learning, small environment, responsiveness of staff -- Due to its size, the Head of School knows every child by their name and gets to know them. Children receive a lot of attention and their educational journey feels bespoke. We have received proactive emails from teachers sharing their observations. Examples include: "Hi, Alex (not my kid's real name) is very strong in X, so I've ordered different materials for Alex." or "Alex skipped an entire section during the assessment and I asked Alex what's going on. Alex said they didn't know how to do X. We went over it together and Alex got the concept quickly, but I strongly encourage Alex to speak up if the materials don't make sense." or "Alex missed homework. I put post-its. Please review and we'll check in with Alex next week."

Kind and welcoming community. We have thoroughly enjoyed making friends and seeing my kid's friendships develop. 

Aftercare -- the easiest and most flexible aftercare you will ever experience. You use it whenever you want for however long you want. No need to make upfront commitment. We often decide on the same day that we need 30 min. or 1 hr of aftercare. 

Woodworking -- It's very hands-on. Kid has made ships, bird houses, etc. Very cool. 

Please feel free to reach out if you have questions. 

* - for Aurora

It's a small school, so specialists and extracurricular clubs/activities aren't as robust as bigger schools. The art teacher is amazing but music is not its strength unlike BPC. Academics are engaging, but it's not a hyper academic school. There are no letter grades and homework is minimal. Spanish is just ok.

Just a heads-up re: TBS - they are very different post-pandemic.  My kids attended there through K-6 and K-3, through the pandemic, and we ultimately left.  Many of the former strengths have been lost as teachers and admin have left, and the rhetoric re: neurodiversity and civic engagement was quite different from our everyday experience.  I recommend seeking out advice from currently enrolled families who aren't the ones that admissions guides you to.   

Our daughter is in 2nd grade at Park Day, and started in Kindergarten. We love the school and find it to be a place where our daughter can be her imaginative, creative self. She enjoys going to school, math in particular, and likes writing. The second grade does a massive year long poetry unit! (in addition to phonics based spelling and mechanics, and scaffolded instruction in other genres). Recent units like historical change-makers, a group-work focused science unit about body systems, and other projects where she gets to choose her topic to research or explore are particularly engaging for her. I love how many of the projects are interdisciplinary and jump smoothly from the classroom to the electives where they learn songs or do art in conjunction with their academic work. When we were applying, we found that Park Day felt friendly, authentic, and less "sales-y" than some other school visit experiences. The school is a very warm place, where teachers and administrators care about our child and our family, and class parent volunteers organize parent nights out and an annual spring camping trip. The emphasis on perspective taking and Social Justice threads through the curriculum and philosophy, which I remember was emphasized in the visiting/applying process. We have found the small group differentiation to be especially helpful for our kiddo who is accelerated in the primary subjects. Like with any school there have been bumps along the way, and we've found that the teachers have been just amazing in helping when navigating friendships, or offering insight to us as a family. Most importantly, our child is happy and loves going to school. Good luck in your search!

Hey there!

We have a third grader at Park Day and so far we've been really happy.  As you mentioned, picking a school is such a personal decision, but I do feel like Park Day has lived up to what was advertised.  They have a lot of admissions events where you get to meet current families and my experience is that everyone has been just as warm as the people at those events. Park Day really takes the progressive education model seriously and it is reflected in the education that my child is receiving and the way topics are approached.  My son has been very happy these past three years (we started in first grade) at Park Day.  He is very sensitive to change and new environments so his adjustment was difficult, but the school really embraced him and made sure that he was seen and understood. The teachers see his potential and find ways to connect with him to get that out of him.  It's been a great experience for our family.

Hi there!

I'm a current Park Day parent of 2 children. Although I know it’s such a personal decision, we ultimately chose Park Day for our family when comparing schools, curriculums, and communities.

* Did the school live up to everything that was advertised?
* Were your kids/are your kids happy in their environment?

What we’ve experienced:

The first thing that immediately stood out to us (other than the gorgeous and spacious campus) was the school’s leadership. Angela Taylor, head of the school, is simply fantastic. I was immediately impressed by her genuine candor, commitment to the school, and her willingness to be available.

The teachers are simply AMAZING — experienced and thoughtful, and attentive to the individual needs of each child. The curriculum for (phonics-based) literacy skills and the model for teaching math are both excellent and current. Project-based learning has also been really impactful for both my kids in the way that it threads topics and skills together across disciplines. And the enrichment classes are not superfluous. My younger son has a growing knowledge and love for horticulture as a result of Learning Garden, and my older son is excited about what he’s doing in Art and Innovation Workshop. Overall, our children are both excited about school and LOVE learning. For me, this — above everything else — is what has made Park Day an outstanding experience for our family.

Other positives:

The communication we receive to understand how our children are doing academically and socially in the classroom, as well as how to support their learning at home, is beyond impressive, both in its candidness, and transparency should an issue arise. Park Day treats the relationship to families as a partnership.

The community of families is another huge win. The relationships we have with other parents are authentic and supportive. Impromptu playdates on the weekends, open chat channels for summer camp planning, soccer practice, or just wondering what others are doing on Saturday all make the experience richer.

Small class sizes mean that my children are really in tune with all of their peers. It’s nice to see the entire grade level coming together as a cohort of friends, while at the same time having 2 classes per grade allows the teachers to shake up social dynamics each year.

Aftercare has not disappointed. Our kids love staying on campus at school, and love the classes in aftercare (Chess, Scratch coding, 3-D printing, gymnastics, cooking classes, etc.)

Lastly, the campus is simply magical, and although I wouldn’t recommend choosing a school based on its surroundings, it really does shape the school experience in wonderful ways that did not disappoint!  

I wish you all the best!

Hi, I am the parent of a current kindergartner at Aurora. My younger son will be starting kindergarten at Aurora in the fall. I agree 100% with the other reply from Aurora (posted 3/5/24). The only thing I would add is that K/1 teachers have managed to figure out each kid's learning style and adapt their teaching (to the extent they can) to that kid. My daughter is excited about learning and loves the project-based aspect of the work. She comes home singing songs about how to spell words and asks me to quiz her on addition. Private school is expensive but I'm grateful that Aurora feels worth it. Feel free to reach out directly if you want more info. 


My daughter is a kindergartener at Aurora and my whole family is SO HAPPY there. They do in fact live up to what they advertise: Aurora is a warm community with a really solid social and emotional as well as academic curriculum. My daughter is learning so much and feels a real sense of confidence and belonging. The children are kind, the teachers are exceptional, the administration is communicative and accessible. They have a wonderful and convenient after care program and offer stellar camps during the summer and other school breaks. I cannot recommend them highly enough and am happy to answer any further questions!!

Our child is set to graduate from The Berkeley School (TBS) this June after being there since preschool, and It has been a tremendously positive experience. Academics have been exceptionally strong - rigorous and intellectual, but also playful, engaging, and supportive. The teachers are fantastic - pedagogically solid and also truly caring and kind. We feel confident that our kid will be very well prepared for high school and beyond. Someone else mentioned changes at TBS after the pandemic, and for sure there were a few glitches, but at this point I'm pretty sure that all of those changes have resulted in significant upgrades. The new director of teaching and learning is an out of the spotlight superstar who has done a tremendous job of recruiting and retaining dynamic and engaging teachers while bringing coherence and depth to the program. 

Our kid has been happy to go to school every day, feels closely connected to the community and classmates, and, like someone else said here, gets a little bummed when school goes on break. TBS has a thing about every member of the community being "seen and supported" and we've really seen that come to life in so many ways through the years. 

Best of luck in your decision. We know families who have had good experiences at all of those schools - nothing bad to say about any of them, but TBS was a great fit for our kid and we're deeply grateful for the experience it provided. Feel free to reach out if you have questions. 

We have a sixth grader at BPC and she loves it. The teachers are excellent and the entire staff seems genuinely committed to every kid’s well being and growth. The parent community is very engaged and welcoming. Our daughter comes home excited about school and excited about what she is learning. She especially loves the math teacher and the English teacher, who are truly exceptional. It is a great school and wonderful community. 

Hi!  My son went to The Berkeley School for 3rd to 8th grade.  We loved everything about TBS and my son thrived in the intimated setting.  He knew not only the students around him, but all the adults on campus as well (and they knew him in return).  In looking at other answers on this thread I see that people comment on changes over the years.  In my professional life I work in and with a lot of schools and I will just note that ALL schools change over time and it is important to note that while some people change, the heart of TBS did not, from my opinion.  The core values of what brought us to TBS were still present when we left TBS and I trully belive that TBS helped nuture my son to be the person he is today.   

We have one child at Park Day and have had such a beautiful experience so far. 

Did it live up to everything that was advertised?

Yes, I think so. We really felt that our child would thrive in a progressive environment with a big emphasis on turning out well-rounded students who loved learning and were curious and kind. As our child got older and we discovered some learning differences, this became even more important because with the RICH extracurricular offerings, he was able to really find places where he thrived, even when core academics felt a little harder. The integration and cross-collaboration between classes, grades, and subject areas isn't just something shiny for the website -- it's done on the daily and in a really thoughtful manner. Plus, the teachers are able and willing to often work with your kiddo around things they're interested in even outside of the main curricular plan. 

Were your kids/are your kids happy in their environment?

YES! Our child for the most part loves school, has a really strong community there, and feels like they belong and have ownership over the (amazing) campus and community. We've found much more parent community than I thought we would as well. After school is wonderful (and our kid often demands to stay)!

We are a happy BPC family who joined in 6th grade from a public elementary school. We've loved the strong math program, incredibly dedicated teaching staff, thoughtful administration and general kindness of the community. Our outspoken and assertive kid loves the Socratic dialog encouraged in most classes and has developed great relationships with teachers. She weathered the socially dicey middle school years with a strong group of friends, including many kids who have been at BPC since early elementary school. We couldn't be happier with our choice (we also seriously considered Head Royce and Redwood Day).

We are a BPC family with one kid in elementary school (2nd grade, who started in kindergarten) and one kid in middle (6th grade, who moved after public elementary school). We are very happy - it is an amazing community where authenticity of communication between teachers/staff and parents shines through. Everyone seems committed to the kids' growth, and the administration is very open to feedback. I was inspired by emphasis on inculcating curiosity and socratic learning. I like that academics is given high priority (they have a winning middle school math team) while putting in a lot of effort and making room for music, art, theatre and other activities. The annual art exhibition as well as the music concerts continue to amaze us. I am reading reviews of other schools here and sounds like all of these are great options! Seems like you can't go wrong in Berkeley :)

Hello, I have a second grader at Black Pine Circle and an incoming kindergartener. My kiddo is very happy there, and my preschooler can't wait to go. 

My favorite part of BPC is how the school honors authenticity. In each grade so far, the teachers have seen my kid. My kiddo is not extroverted, so it took deliberate attention to form a strong connection at the beginning of each year. They found their way in by connecting about special interests, dance parties, and funny jokes. They balance connection and boundaries creating a safe and structured learning environment.

The academics have been great. I feel confident knowing that they are using the best approaches to teaching. BPC used science-based reading before it was cool :) I also really appreciate how they evaluate their skills in multiple ways to assess progress and make sure they are building their foundations well. The teachers invest in their careers and show up in the classroom with their own passions and interests. BPC markets itself as a school of thought, and I've seen how BPC strives to create critical thinkers (not what to think, but how to think). I have seen this play out in the deep questions my kid asks at school and home and their ability to readily see things from multiple perspectives. 

I am really grateful for the integration of learning support and specialists at the school. They have been so aware of where my kiddo excels and where they need support and are proactive in providing differentiation for them. BPC talks about keeping kids in the zone of optimal learning, and I have seen that in play out in my experience.

BPC is known for its music programs. The orchestra and jazz band are just phenomenal, and all kids start string instruments in the first grade. And my kid isn't super into music, but that's cool too. They enjoy the natural integration of the program that creates appreciation and fun. Learning about the layers of the rainforest with a sing-along song - yes please.

Another big thing we appreciate is the sense of community at BPC for our kids and us. Our kiddo has deep connections with the kids in their class and across grades. And they are learning friendship skills together. It's a super important piece of school. The Head of School and the Head of Lower School know every kid's name and often times what they're into. "Hey, kiddo how are the guinea pigs doing?" The parents in my grade are connected and supportive of each other. We have diverse interests and backgrounds and really enjoy spending time together. We communicate readily on slack about summer camps, classwide playdates, camping trips, and my personal favorite-book recommendations. 

The extended-day program (EDP) is awesome. No need to sign-up or reserve time. You just pick your kiddo up when you need to. They provide SO many quality after-school clubs (i.e. watercolor, gymnastics, taekwondo, gardening, cooking, coding, engineer/maker, collage, soccer, math teams, Minecraft, dance, drama, etc). It's such an easy way for my kid to explore new things and go deeper into things they love with minimal investment from me. I didn't realize what a boon it would be to not have to pick my kiddo up and take them to a million extra-circulars after school because the EDP team provides so much right there. 

It's not a big campus. They do wonders with what space they have and being in the neighborhood, and the smaller space can help create intimacy, but again something to consider in your needs. Also, every grade is different. Class makeup is a huge part of what makes things work. I appreciate that BPC pays attention to this, but also dynamics sometimes depend on the grade in whatever school you pick. It's not if there are no problems, it's more in how a school handles problems. As you mentioned, knowing what your kid needs in a school environment is the most important information. I wish you all the best in finding a great match for your family. 

Parent of a Middle Schooler at Redwood Day. You didn't mention the age of your child, but my child entered Redwood Day at 6th grade. We came from public school, and specifically sought out a smaller school with better access to the administration and teachers, where every teacher knows your child well. We are very happy there. My child is well supported, thriving academically, and has made good friends. They have reported that all the kids seem to get along and they tell me there are no "bullies" and to their knowledge, no kid feels left out. This was very important to me, as Middle School can be a tough place socially. When incidences occur, the administration is right on top of it and sends lots of communication home. When I have reached out to the teachers, they have replied right away and it is easy to set up a conference to chat. That said, the school puts a lot of emphasis on building independence at this age, so when there are issues, most of the time my child actually emails their own teachers and works it out themselves. All in all, I'm very happy with the school.