Skyline & Oakland Tech HS for kid with ADHD & anxiety

I have an 8th grader with a 504 for ADHD plus other mental health issues and we're looking at high schools for next year. My kid is incredibly smart but carries a lot of self-conscious anxiety, self-loathing, and perfectionism so she gets all A's but the work takes an excruciatingly long time & induces lots of anxiety & conflict. We have experienced cutting, disordered eating, school refusal, and panic attacks that led to passing out in the last year, but thankfully, she has really come a long way in the last few months. So, we are looking for a high school that has counselors and a supportive atmosphere, so she'll get passed her self-consciousness & tries something new, so looking at clubs & other afterschool activities.

She has old friends who all want to go to the same school, and the consensus is Tech or Skyline. I have always thought Tech was far and away the better school, but I've been told that Skyline has changed a lot. 

I'd love to hear anyone's experiences with either school, whether your child has a 504 or not. And just to be clear, we are not able to afford private school or and homeschooling would be a disaster! 

Thank you! 

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Dear Melissa B,

I can really empathize with what you're going through.  Our child has ADHD and social anxiety.  She was greatly helped by the counselors at King Middle School (North Berkeley), and ended up doing pretty well during her four years at Berkeley High. The Vice-Principal at King made sure that she had a 504 Plan before entering high school.  "You'll need it," the VP said, and she was right!

Like you, we could not afford private school, and homeschooling would have, of course, been a disaster. Critical to her success, I believe, was that she was in one of Berkeley High's "small schools" with empathetic teachers. The counselor, Dwayne Byndloss, who managed her 504 Plan, was great, too.  High school is less "clique-y" than middle school, and many students thrive there who were somewhat "outcasts" in middle school

So public school can be the right place for your daughter, *provided that you stay on top of her homework assignments* and keep the lines of communication open about her feelings.  Arrange for a parent-teacher meeting with each of her teachers at the beginning of the school year.  Your daughter can be present for these meetings.  For the 504 Plan meetings (one per year), the child is normally not present, until she turns 18, which she *must* be present. 

Educate her about how to ask for extra time for exams -- knowing how (and screwing up the courage) to ask can be crucial to success, because ADHD kids really do process information more slowly.

You don't mention where your daughter is receiving therapy.  We found a wonderful therapist at the Ann Martin Center in Emeryville, but I just learned that, very sadly, it is closed.  However, Children's Hospital Oakland has excellent psychotherapeutic services, and they accept Medi-Cal patients.  Her therapists -- both through Children's Hospital and the Ann Martin Center -- all attended her annual 504 Plan meetings.  (If your daughter is not seeing a therapist, you should find her one without delay!)

I hope this information helps you somewhat.  

P.S. Our child is now a junior in college, and so she survived her teenaged years!

Just so you understand - You won’t have a choice between Skyline and Tech. You are zoned for one or the other. You can call ousd or go on the zoning site and see right now. Tech is a very in demand school. We literally had to move to get our son into it. If you get into one, but hope for the other, you’ll be put on a waitlist, but if his number is higher than about 100 you have very little chance of transferring. And the friends we know who were in that boat, the kids didn’t get admitted until 4-6 weeks after school had started - so the kids were uncomfortable and refused to transfer. (So far, our move has not been worth it, btw. For us, wanting academic rigor for a very bright kid, private would have been a better choice.) I hear Skyline is doing better than Tech during pandemic. We have good friends at almost every HS that “hills” kids go to and the ones that stand out THIS strange year are: Head Royce, St Mary’s - followed by OSA, CPS, Bentley - then Bishop ODowd, then far down the list OUSD Tech and Skyline. I talk to parents at these schools every week, and that list in roughly that order is my sense of parent satisfaction on academics, social emotional and general ability to manage teaching in a pandemic. 

In a non pandemic year, I think both Tech and Skyline are good schools for kids who can focus, work hard, and put themselves on a challenging academic track. But there are a TON of kids at both schools - per my own eavesdropping on classes and many comments from close friends - that do not take school seriously at all. What that translates to is - in general classes (not AP, not Paideia), teachers focus on the bottom 50% and bright kids get easy A’s and are not much challenged. It’s a shame.

Just underscoring the previous poster's response--if the kids all want to go to the same school and they are not all zoned for Tech, they should try for Skyline, where non-neighborhood kids are far more likely to get in. Tech and Skyline are different schools in terms of their program offerings and social dynamics, though, so it's worth exploring what the right fit for your daughter might be, not just which school her friends are attending. And if you are zoned for Skyline, I wouldn't fall too hard for Tech--they do take some non-neighbor kids, but the waitlist is long and there are no guarantees. You may want to explore some of OUSD's smaller schools too--Skyline and Tech are the largest in the city and can be overwhelming for kids who are not self-directed. A smaller school like MetWest may be a better fit.