Aurora School

Community Subscriber
Private School
130 students
lisa [at]
40 Dulwich Road, Oakland, CA 94618
Editors' Notes:

Aurora School’s mission is to nurture children’s love of learning by cultivating academic excellence, emotional intelligence, and social engagement. 

Aurora is a progressive K-8 independent school where teachers foster academic strength and the ability to solve problems with a focus on social justice. Social/Emotional Learning is essential to our curriculum, with an emphasis on self-awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. Our community of students, parents and staff practice empathy, kindness, and inclusivity and move through the world with positive intention.

Our most unique trait is our multi-grade classrooms, where students in grades K/1, 2/3, 4/5 and middle school share learning spaces. Older students have the opportunity to mentor younger students, who become mentors themselves the next year. They form friendships beyond their age group, and support learning at all levels. 

Established in 1988, we have one of the lowest teacher/student ratios and largest libraries of any East Bay independent school. An Aurora education is grounded in STEM and humanities, along with programs in art, music, Spanish, woodshop and physical education. All of this happens in the indoor and outdoor spaces of our lovely, historic campus located in Upper Rockridge, off Highways 24 and 13.

If you’d like to learn more about Aurora School and what we can offer your child, visit, or contact admissions [at] to schedule an information session or campus tour. Come experience the power of small for yourself!

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi there, 

    We are in the process of starting to get more serious about looking for elementary school for our 3.5 year old and would really love to send her to either Aurora School or Park Day. But I am unclear if we have a shot at getting in? How competitive are these schools actually? I think my kid is quite bright and very considerate and successful in social settings, but I am sure that applies to many kids. Would be grateful to hear from folks about their experience in getting in or not getting in ot these schools. 

    In my experience, both of these schools tend to self-select...which is to say, some kids don't get in, but it's generally not because there isn't room, but because the school is not a good fit for the child. Visit and see if it feels like the right fit for your family, and go from there. Also know that a 3.5-year-old can change a lot in a year, and you may have different ideas about which school is the best fit for her by next spring. Also talk to your child's preschool teachers--they know your child well and can offer good guidance.

    Both are wonderful schools with similar progressive educational offerings and friendly communities. We got into both and it was very hard to choose one over the other. We could really see us being happy at either school. 

    I think both schools tend to get more applications than the available slots. But, my impression is that the admission is more about fit. (I don't work for admissions at either school, so I can't say for sure.) My impression is that schools are interested in building a diverse class, so some luck component exists. We felt that our child (bright, kind, social) was a strong applicant, but we had no idea where our child would fall in terms of the school's demographic needs. 

    If your child is bright, kind, and gets along well with others, most schools should find your child to be an attractive applicant. Schools are also interested in the potential contributions that parents will make. Monetary donation is helpful but schools really want and need an engaged community, so parent volunteers are very much welcome. They are also interested in parent background. 

    Your preschool teachers and parent community are also a great resource. We went to a small play-based preschool, and Park Day and Aurora are very popular choices because the educational philosophy is similar. Good luck!

    Reply now  »
  • We applied to a few private elementary schools. We are familiar with the campus of other schools as we have visited the schools a few years ago. We have not visited Aurora and have no idea how much / what type of outdoor space they have. Are there outdoor classrooms? How has the in-person instruction been during the pandemic? We'd be joining the school with no existing friends, if we are admitted to the school. It seems that the school community looks friendly. It's the only school that is doing outreach to us. So, we feel warmer toward Aurora at this time. If you are an Aurora family (current or recent), I'd love to hear about some positives and some things that you wish were better at the school. We are really hoping that our kids get to attend a school in-person in an environment that we feel are managing the pandemic well and safely. Are enrichment classes happening? Replies both public and private are all welcome.

    Hi there! Our 2 kids (2nd and 4th grade) have been at Aurora School for 4 years, and we are really happy with our decision to move there and never looked back. We love that Aurora has very strong academics while still focusing most importantly on joy-based learning and educating the whole child. Personally, I find that Aurora has a little bit of everything without being too focused on any one area, as the best progressive schools do. It's not rigid, not soft, but "just right." They emphasize social-emotional learning (including stress management), music, art, STEM, Woodshop, Spanish, Yoga & PE, theater, and do this all with having really strong Math/Language Arts/Social Studies. We especially appreciate the emphasis on developmentally appropriate social justice and inclusivity. In normal times, they offer fun electives like cooking, etc. during after-care. Most importantly of all, we have found a level of warmth, love, and dedication from the teachers there that we hadn't experienced in previous schools. My children are opposites, yet both have thrived. Let me try to answer your specific questions in order:

    -Outdoor Space: Aurora has 3 separate outdoor play areas, including a blacktop for balls with built-in play structure & sandbox, a "greenspace" with turf on a converted tennis court for PE & other games, and the so-called Garden Forest, a favorite nature space of the kids where they play among trees & build fairy houses. See Instagram!

    -In-person instruction: We've just gone back full-time for the 2nd time this February after the second lockdown was lifted and case counts declined, and it's been going really well for us so far, and they do not intend to close again until the county requires it. The 3 play areas outside are great for rotating cohorts. The kids are thrilled to be back, even "masked and distant." Classes are mostly inside, except I think for perhaps music (there are tents over the picnic tables for outdoor work in most weather) but inside, wall-to-wall windows are open, desks spread apart, air filters/fans in every class, and small class sizes allow for naturally distant groups. They've opted to offer full remote learning simultaneously, so the kids whose families opted to remain home for health reasons are "beamed" into the classroom for live instruction and can interact with the class. Our small school size has been a blessing! The teachers are generally far into the vaccination process, by and large.

    -Community: Even in Covid times, they pair new families up with experienced families to meet masked and distant outside of school for play dates to get to know a friend before starting. Our eldest came in mid-year and felt very welcome, despite being very shy. There've been several new kids even during remote learning who all integrated quickly. Friendship is a priority. The parent base is non-competitive and kind.

    -Pandemic response: The remote learning program was/is amazing. Full-day live instruction; it was astonishing to watch it unfold in real-time. Safety-wise, they are doing things by the book according to up-to-date CDC and county guidelines. We test once a week and are required to quarantine if we travel or are exposed. Kids and staff are masked at all times (designated outside areas for mask breaks). We do a daily temperature and wellness questionnaire to screen for symptoms. 

    Out of space! Best of luck! :)

    I am a current parent.  My son graduated from Aurora last year, and my daughter is currently in the 3rd grade.

    To answer your questions:

    There are no 'outdoor classrooms' per se, but the kids eat lunch outside and there is a playground area and a green space up the hill they use.

    My child recently went back to in-person learning and it has been the same as prior to the pandemic, which is very good.  The class sizes are small and the kids get a lot of attention and can work in small groups.  During the pandemic when there was remote learning I was extremely impressed with the quality of the instruction.  Again, it really helps to have a small class size.  I'm not sure what you mean by enrichment classes, but if they are after-school classes I do not know because my child does not attend them.

    Some pros:

    Small class sizes

    Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is really taught - it's not just a buzzword.  The kids learn about different perspectives and continually see things through others views.  The teachers attend a lot of training in this area and it pays off.  My child will talk about things that I was totally unaware of at her age.

    Quality of administration and staff - the teachers my children have had are intelligent, caring and kind individuals.They do a great job of balancing the needs of your child with the group as a whole.

    The kids learn to write at an early age and I think in general the reading and writing program is strong.

    Community: the vibe you are getting is warm because the community is warm.  Everyone is welcoming and I have never felt excluded or not welcome.  I think this is a huge strength of this school.

    Some cons:

    I think the curriculum is mostly appropriate.  I would say the only thing that could be improved on is the math curriculum.  It seems a bit experiential, I would prefer in some cases to 'learn the algorithm' and move on.  However, for many of the learners at this school it works - I think it is personal preference.

    Playground size: I think it is a bit small, but since they added the green space it's a lot better.

    Summary: In general I think a lot of Aurora and I would highly recommend it, especially during the pandemic.  My son graduated last year from Aurora after having several months of all remote learning and was mostly well-prepared for middle school.  My daughter has been remote since last March (?) and recently went back to in person learning.  I feel like she has not 'lost a year' due to the pandemic and she has been highly engaged in her classes even though they were all ZOOM classes until recently.

  • Can anyone speak to how rigorous the academics are at Aurora and/or Berkwood Hedge (or offer comparisons between the two)? We 100% believe in the importance of social/emotional development and appreciate the small school atmosphere but want to make sure our bright child who is advanced in certain areas will be academically challenged in K and beyond. Thanks. 

    Our family had a wonderful experience at Berkwood Hedge — our bright kids were engaged, motivated, and loved their Berkwood Hedge days. It remains our family’s favorite school experience. Our kids were well prepared for the academically rigorous schools they attended afterwards (for instance, our oldest completed the calculus BC sequence and AP exam in 10th grade). Berkwood Hedge is a wonderful choice for academics, social-emotional learning, art, physical education, and life-long friendships.

    I have a third grader at Aurora as well as a sixth grader at Bentley who attended Aurora. My 6th grader was well prepared for the academic rigor of Bentley while also retaining his love of learning. My third grader has blossomed into a beautiful writer at Aurora. I feel confident in the academics at Aurora. 

    I can't compare the two schools as we haven't experienced both, but we have been tremendously happy with Berkwood Hedge over the past three years. Academics are excellent and our daughter (now in second grade) has experienced steady growth in every area. There is a strong focus on differentiation and project based learning. More importantly, from my point of view, our daughter loves going to school every day and has developed an incredibly positive and enthusiastic attitude toward learning. We attribute this to the fantastic teachers and the feeling of community and support that the school fosters. On that front, in addition to the social-emotional curriculum that is taught, the teachers, staff, and head of school are wonderful at modeling how to engage others with kindness and empathy. We could not hope for a better set of role models. Good luck with your decision!

Parent Reviews

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We have been extremely happy at Aurora. Class sizes are small and social-emotional learning is very important part of their curriculum. We love the mixed grade classes - getting to stay in the same class for 2 years was fantastic for our child that does not like changes. The older kids in the class were extremely helpful and empathetic when she was struggling at times K year, and she learned from their excellent behavior and hopefully was able to help the younger kiddos. She has friends in her class and above and below, as well as made friends with older kids through partner pals and in aftercare. We love that it is a small community where everyone knows our kid and we know the teachers/staff. Academically she is doing well and lots of great extracurriculars as well. 


I'm a current Aurora parent (elementary school) who considered both Aurora and Park Day. 

Pros for Aurora

- Exceptional community of students, parents, teachers, and leadership. Truly caring, thoughtful, kind, inclusive, dedicated to each child's growth and learning. The mixed grade encourages kids to form strong bonds across grades and helps kids to develop empathy and social skills.

- Well-rounded and meaningful curriculum. Social emotional and project based, progressive education with thought provoking and challenging academics. Academics are strong and meaningful. No busy work. A lot of engaging, experiential learning while fostering the fundamental academic and social skills such as critical thinking and analysis, organizing one's thoughts and expressing them as a writer, creative expression and problem solving, inclusiveness, empathy, to name a few. 

- Small size. Teachers really get to know students -- personality, strength and weaknesses, needs, wants, etc. The small size allows teachers to excel at differentiating lessons to meet each child's needs. Friendship forms easily. Everyone is so kind and supportive. 

- Campus and location. At first glance, there's no place like Park Day. Park Day's campus is beautiful. But, I actually love Aurora's location very much. Tucked in a beautiful residential neighborhood of upper Rockridge with a lot of trees and nature. The garden forest allows kids to have run around in nature, and they also go to Lake Temescal, which is a short walk from the school. The green space is great, too. 

- Pick-up, drop-off, and aftercare are so easy. I feel truly spoiled in this regard.

- Kids have fun learning at school and are learning to grow up to be kind, thoughtful, inclusive, empathetic, and creative human beings. Some kids naturally excel at reading, writing, some at math, some at tinkering/engineering, sports, music/arts, etc. but all receive excellent education with individualized attention. 

What I think would make Aurora better

First of all, I'm really happy with Aurora and we couldn't ask for a better school. But, if I were to try very hard to think about areas of improvement or what some might consider as cons are the following.

- No drama or formal performance opportunity. Each class does have a performance, which is well integrated into their curriculum, but there isn't a formal drama, choir, or band program for elementary school. 

- Sports. We aren't into sports, but I also wonder if the PE program actually teaches kids to play soccer, baseball, basketball, or other common team sports. Maybe that isn't the role of PE class. I'm not sure. The PE teacher is really great and kids love her though. 

- After school enrichment offerings.  if Aurora had more diverse offerings like dance, martial arts, instrumental music, foreign language, etc., my life would be easier, as I won't have to take my kid to enrichment classes so much. 

- No indoor gym

- Homework. Maybe there should be more homework? My kid often finishes homework at school.

Middle School

Kids are very happy and doing very interesting and challenging work. We will consider Aurora for middle school. Ultimately, it'll be up to our child to decide whether they want to stay at Aurora or pursue something different. We would be happy to remain at Aurora. 

Our precocious, high energy, and extroverted child is thriving at Aurora School which allows our kid to fidget and have a lot of movement throughout the day. Before we even brought up the subject, our teacher proactively reached out about offering fidgets to our child during class. We are very happy that the child gets a lot of outdoor time, hands-on/inquiry-based learning, woodworking, music, and STEM. The social emotional curriculum is excellent and we feel that our child is intellectually challenged, encouraged to develop athleticism, and is learning to be a kind and empathetic person, while simply having fun at school. The new PE teacher is incredible and kids love her. The community is truly kind, caring and committed to diversity and inclusion. The school offers Spanish and music. Kids write and perform the work (play, poetry, etc.)  Our child is currently building an airplane in STEM and a birdhouse in woodworking. Language is not Aurora's focus, although they do offer Spanish. The Spanish teacher is also the music teacher, and he is wonderful.

EBI would be my recommendation, if bilingualism is your primary focus. We have friends at EBI who are very happy there. We applied to EBI and really liked their IB curriculum and diversity. We chose Aurora, as we're already bilingual (not Spanish) and did not feel the need to add another language and we really wanted our child to be at a school with trees and nature. EBI campus is not its strength. Park Day and Aurora came really close and in the end, we chose Aurora based on how warm and welcoming the community felt and the small size. However, we think we would have been happy at any of the three finalist schools for us (Park Day, EBI, and Aurora) and I think you should check out these three schools. Good luck!

We looked at St. Paul's and Park Day but ultimately chose Aurora. If Aurora isn't on your radar, I strongly recommend that you consider Aurora. Aurora draws families who also look at Park Day and Berkwood Hedge as it is among the leaders in socio-emotional learning.  Because Aurora is a smaller school, we felt more personalized attention given to our application and felt very welcome. St. Paul and Park Day are both friendly and welcoming places as well, but it's larger and I felt that we were one of too many applications and the application process felt a bit impersonal. Covid protocols are excellent and academics are engaging. Our child who is 1 - 2 grade level ahead finds academics interesting. They truly embrace the project-based learning. They have ample outdoor and play time incorporated into their learning. Park Day has an impressive campus and is also a lovely school but a bigger community. St. Paul's is very diverse and really embraces Oakland and its diversity. St. Paul, Park Day, Aurora, Berkwood Hedge, Redwood Day are all excellent schools with lots of extracurricular offerings and have a lot of similarities. 

We switched from OUSD to Aurora, and our child is finally thriving in school.

She is her old self again -- love of learning, curiosity, creativity, joviality, all of the sparks that make her a unique individual are back! When we were in OUSD, every morning was a battle. Our child cried saying she hated school, school was stupid, and the only reason school exists is because parents have to go to work. Academically, she is advanced, and thus we were told that the child should doodle and fidget in class. Our child often commented, "a chain is as strong as its weakest link. that's how school is." 

Aurora is spending time getting to know our child and challenging her mind to work in teams as well as independently. She is so excited to go to school everyday that she gets ready before me and is at the door hurrying me to get ready. She wants to go to school early so that she can play at the playground. (This was an option at OUSD, but our child never wanted to go to school early.) As a new kid, we were concerned about friendship, but only 2 weeks into school, she's already made friends. 

We are thoroughly impressed with the warm and thoughtful community at Aurora. Folks are genuine and down to earth. We were concerned because we are not wealthy.  I feel very comfortable picking up my kid in a 15 year old dinged up car, and financial aid is available. It's a financial committment for us, but the benefits (education and social emotional learning for our child and drastic improvement in parental mental health) are worth every dime.

COVID precautions are excellent -- we want to see our schools doing a bit more than the government standards. The small number means less pandemic risks in addition to each child receiving the attention and care that they deserve. The campus is beautiful. Some may say it's not as large or fancy as Park Day or Redwood Day. I was concerned about the outdoor space, but we are very happy with the campus -- it has green space (all natural corkonut turf), garden forest, and playground. Classrooms are very big with gigantic windows that open. The air flow is excellent -- the school administration hired an aerosol expert to audit the school and Aurora aced all safety standards. 

As a new family coming in the middle of an elementary school years, we were a bit nervous. The community has been extraordinary welcoming. It is comforting to finally be able to have a true partnership with our child's school. My only regret is that we didn't join Aurora earlier. We would have saved so many tears and anxiety about school, had we chosen Aurora from the beginning. I enthusiastically recommend Aurora to anyone looking for elementary or middle school for their child. 

I highly recommend that you check out Aurora School in Oakland to see if it matches your daughter's needs. It's a small, progressive school that has focused on social-emotional learning since it opened in 1988. They are well-equipped to differentiate for the needs of high achievers with their multi-age classrooms, low teacher-student ratio, and focus on the whole child. While we have not confirmed it with a diagnosis, we have been told that my daughter could possibly qualify as 2E, and she is thriving at Aurora. We have established and maintained strong and transparent communication with the school since the admissions process, and this has made a world of difference. My daughter has made great friends and her teachers are the most supportive and flexible educators you can find. She is developing lots of confidence and a sense of her place in the world. This is definitely a non-bullying community! Good luck to you in your search. The right school makes all the difference.

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

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.  

This is a question on everyone's mind.  My kids are at Aurora School (independent/private in Oakland).  They organized a task force of various experts from the school and families to work on planning with the Head of School.  They have also been surveying families on needs/desires for the return to school.  They have also been doing a lot of innovative remote learning in the interim (which will likely be helpful later in the Fall/Winter if more shelter-in-place orders are issued).  You can learn more about that here:

While they are still waiting for some more data from public health experts, and feedback from community, I predict a blended model (see Option C on the link below).  Fortunately, preliminary data shows that transmission amongst kids is very rare, so it is more about adults as vectors, which is somewhat easier to try and mitigate.

We shall see and plans will be firmed up soon.  One nice thing about Aurora is it is relatively small school and can be nimble and coordinated in plans.  Fingers crossed.
Curious to see what other plans schools come up with.  Best of luck to all.

Aurora or Park Day? (Mar 8, 2020)

Hi,  I have three kids and we have experienced 9 East Bay schools - public and private.  Aurora is one of them.  Aurora is a fantastic school.  My child went to Aurora after skipping a grade and her former school having no ideas about what to do with her so they decided to have her be a teachers assistant and focus on helping other students with learning disabilities - this would have been fine had it been in combination with a strategy to also help her with her own growth and learning.  Fast forward to Aurora which my child fondly remembers as the best school she has ever attended.  Aurora integrates art and music into many subject areas.  The work she did at Aurora was open ended so she could take it as far as she wanted without limitations except her own.  I will forever be grateful to Aurora and how inspired my child was there.  

I recommend going on a tour at Aurora School in Oakland. I went on 13 school tours of public, private and charter schools but when I walked into Aurora I knew it was our school. My first impression was warmth and kindness. We are now in our second year at Aurora and feel grateful we found this school! It's a progressive school with small class size and the most wonderful teachers! The second week of school, my son was crying when I left. The head of school let him call me on the phone (he didn't feel like he got to say goodbye) and then she stayed with him, took him to the garden/forest area and let him pick sticks, find calmness, talk about his feelings. I've never heard of a principal doing this. She created a safe space for him to feel and talk. Learning can only happen when kids feel safe and nurtured and thats what we love about Aurora (among many other things). It's a K-5 though, so not sure you're open to that. But I was set on a K-8 school until I found Aurora:) Good luck in your search! 

Our son was diagnosed with ADHD in the second grade while at BUSD. We pulled him out of public school and discovered Aurora School in Oakland. It was the best experience he had in his grade school education.

Hi there!

I feel compelled to reply to one of the responses posted here. Aurora school is NOT a good fit for any child with ADHD or learning disabilities. They do make the basic accommodations - sitting near the teacher, fidgets, etc - but they are not set up to support any alternative/visual learning that is needed for these children. The extent of their support for children with ADHD or learning disabilities is working with a specialist twice a week for 30 minutes. This deficit in their teaching will not be noticed in their kindergarten and 1st grade years at Aurora because the curriculum is not very demanding. Once these children reach higher grades, those needing extra support just fall farther and farther behind. By the time they reach the higher grades, these children are in a very bad situation and are so far off from grade level when entering middle school.

Aurora is great for children who are neurotypical - the community is wonderful. Their social/emotional foundation is incredible. We would have likely had a lovely experience there, had our child fit this.

Sorry to hear about your struggle. Sounds like Aurora school in upper Rockridge might be a good fit for your son. It's a small K-5 private school. Small mixed grade classes, low student to teacher ratio. My child started kindergarten at a different school (big class, overwhelming, getting in trouble for being a 5 year old) but it wasn't the right fit and none of us were happy. Luckily I found Aurora through Berkeley Parents Network, toured the school 2 weeks into the school year and fell in love with it. I am happy to talk more off-line. I know they have a rolling enrollment and open houses coming up. I highly recommend contacting the school for a tour and see if it's a good fit for your child. 

I am so sorry that things aren’t feeling good for your daughter - it’s so heartbreaking to watch our little ones go through these struggles. Sounds like you’re looking for a warm and welcoming and creative place for your daughter to really settle into...I have a first grade daughter (and 3rd grade son) at Aurora - a small progressive school in Upper Rockridge - and it is just such a place. Both of my children have felt so welcomed and nurtured there - by their teachers, their friends, the other families, the administrators! It is a really lovely school that focuses a lot on building community. The whole school (K-5) gets together every Tuesday for assembly (parents welcome), where we sing, sometimes meditate, make announcements - it’s so fun to watch the kids lead the songs (when they feel ready), make announcements about the school or the world. It’s a small school - 100 kids in 5 grades - which helps facilitate friendships across grades  and which also really creates a feeling of community among the parents. Play dates and camping trips and shared after school activities are all actively pursued by most parents (and kids). I can’t speak highly enough about it. My children (and my husband and I) have been really happy at Aurora - it’s a wonderful place! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


An Aurora Mama to a happy first grade girl and third grade boy

Hi there. We are a two mom family and our son is just finishing 2nd grade at Aurora school which is a small private elementary school off Broadway Terrace/Harbord Ave in the Oakland hills, between Montclair and Rockridge. We've been at the school since kindergarten and plan to stay through fifth grade, and even middle school, if they start one!

I can't say enough good things about Aurora. It is led by a very smart and skillful head of school, and her team of gay-positive, inclusive teachers. The school creates an environment of openness to everyone, and as such, helps everyone feel like they belong, whether they're adopted, have learning differences, divorced parents, single parent or two moms (no two dad families at present). This leads to a very collaborative and inclusive experience, as well as early intervention whenever anything problematic happens on the yard. Staff provide a lot of supervision, and help the kids "talk it out" when needed.

Aurora's summer camps are an excellent introduction to the school, so you might explore them for your child too. Josh Johnson, who runs the camps, is a pivotal person at the school throughout the year, and hires alumni as camp counselors as well as specialists for the theater arts and creative camps on offer.

I would totally and wholeheartedly recommend Aurora School in the Oakland Hills in Upper Rockridge near Broadway Terrace.  It's a small, independent progressive school.  Progressive, meaning the type of learning they offer (project based, hands on, oriented to each kid's level, etc) and the attitude towards inclusiveness.  We are also a two-Mom family with a son who has been at Aurora since kindergarten and who will be a 3rd grader there next year. We have always felt completely part of the community and have always felt all families regardless of their configuration are treated with the same respect.  I have been part of the Diversity and Inclusiveness Committee and really believe that the school is committed to making sure all the kids and families feel welcome and included. 

Aurora has a strong LGBTQ community with many out queer folks on staff.  They even celebrate Pride Day.  It's in Upper Rockridge attached to Holy Names HS.

My son just started in kinder at Aurora and he's biracial. We live in the flat lands of oakland and sending our son to a private school is definitely a financial sacrifice. Our son actually started the year at a public school but we felt it wasn't the right fit for him due to some of the issues you mentioned. So far we've been very happy with the Aurora community and the staffs. We had some reservations about pulling our son out of his school few weeks into the school year and starting over at a brand new school. But the kids and teachers have been so welcoming and supportive that it made his transition a lot easier than we expected. I encourage you go on a tour at Aurora and see for yourself. I will be happy to answer any other questions you might have. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Oct 2015

RE: Disappointed with Oakland public kindergarten experience

My son is in Kindergarten at Aurora School and I cannot tell you how happy he is (and we are). It is a lovely, nurturing place that fosters curiosity. There is absolutely NO SHAMING. Rather, social and emotional learning is an emphasis of theirs. They approach children with such respect. My son is very slow to warm and I anticipated a difficult transition. He has felt so safe there and so engaged. Further, they work from a project based model. It is truly a wonderful place. leigh

March 2015

RE: School for shy, gender fluid boy

I know about 4 families with kids in K at Aurora. I'm not sure if they read the newsletter regularly. So I just wanted to say that all of them would be welcoming to a child who is gentle and gender-fluid. It seems like a caring community from what I can tell from the outside. Hopefully some of them will reply themselves too. anon

I agree, the process is terribly confusing. I don't have a gender-fluid boy, but here's my perspective as the parent of a kid who attended St. Paul's for kindergarten, then switched to Aurora. St. Paul's didn't work for us because it seemed too big and impersonal for our 5-year-old. A particular problem was the afterschool program (which we had to use because of work schedules), which mixes the littlest kids in with all the other age groups for much of the afternoon. This was pretty overwhelming for our kid - who isn't even particularly sensitive. Academically, I think the kids get a really excellent preparation at St. Paul's, but the pedagogy seemed pretty traditional and the administration fairly distant. We're very happy at Aurora. The size of the school is just right - no middle-schoolers, so the kids don't seem to ''age up'' the way they sometimes do in a K-8 school. We love the multi-grade classrooms, especially since our kid has often been more drawn to older kids academically, but younger kids socially. This is a place where the teachers really know our child well. I think Aurora would be a good place for your ''gentle boy.'' The parents, the teachers, the kids, are all different kinds of people - but all share a basic common value of compassion. That might sound gooey, but that's really how it feels. I'd encourage you to get in touch with Aurora and ask for the contact info of parents with kids like yours (there are many!). And I wish you all the best in your search, and your decision. You sound like a caring mom. Aurora parent

Hi there, I wanted to respond to your question about Aurora School. I am a current parent of a 4th grade boy, and have another child starting Kindergarten next year. I can say a few things that would be relevant to you in your considerations of schools. First, Aurora is committed to seeing and valuing each child for the person that they are. They have been supportive of my son all along, and in several different ways. Each Aurora student is a unique individual, and the staff at Aurora respects and honors that--in their interactions with students, and in their flexible approaches to solutions for things that may not be working for a child. Aurora scaffolds the emotional and relational development of the students throughout their development. The teachers are actively engaged in creating a safe space for all students. One added treasure at Aurora is the *amazing* Extended care staff. Children learn a lot about relating with one another on the yard at free time, and all staff are attentive and supportive of that learning process. The second point I wanted to address is regarding Aurora's exceptional stance in terms of inclusivity of various gender identities. Gender is understood to be flexible, and celebration of all unique identities is explicitly supported. Aurora students interrogate assumptions about societal gender roles at the k-1 level. It's awesome. Lastly, I have seen many types of kids thrive at Aurora. (many, many types Aurora teaches and works with kids in the way that works for them. A more introverted student may be gently and safely scaffolded to step into a new place, while a more extroverted child may be supported in practicing a more quiet reflection (or something like that) but the point of it is not to shame or change a person's essential nature. Rather, it is to help all children grow, and only in ways that feel ok to THEM. All types of learners are validated, and Aurora staff has a developmental framework that understands that kids are growing and gaining more capacity each day. Good luck in your decision! sonia b

My son is currently in kindergarten at Aurora. He is gender creative, shy and loves to wear bright colors, sing, dance and draw. He also loves to learn, so last year while we were touring numerous schools, both private and public our goal was to find a school for him to be himself and that provided a warm and safe environment for him to continue to learn. We could not have found a more perfect fit for him than Aurora! At Aurora he has flourished. He wakes up eager to go to school. He loves his teachers! He has made friends that accept him for himself. He can focus on learning and not worry about being teased because he chose to wear his monster high shirt and pink sneakers. Even though, he has been at Aurora for less then a year I honestly can not picture my son at any other school. I know that we made the right decision for him. Hope this was helpful, - A mother of an almost first grader

Aurora is an amazing school for a gentle boy! It's also a great school for just about any kind of child; because of its small size (k-5), its combined classes, and its unique commitment to community (all-school assembly every week, all-school lunch dance parties, buddies across classrooms etc.), it fosters acceptance and allows for the students to both know each other across the grades and be exactly who they are without fanfare. One thing that we really liked about Aurora (we looked at some of the other schools on your list, but not all), was that it definitely felt progressive in action; there was an authenticity to it that we felt when we toured and that we notice every day. There are all types- gentle, shy, introspective, energetic and extroverted (and those in between), but what is evident is that all of the kids seem to feel ''known,'' safe and accepted at their school.

Hello, I am the mother of a boy who used to play with My Little Pony and has now ''grown up'' to American Girl Dolls. He is extremely verbal, very emotionally aware, his favorite color is pink and his favorite place on earth is on stage. We transferred him to Aurora in late September of his 2nd grade year, 6 months ago. We moved him because we felt that he was not being encouraged to express himself, or celebrated for his strengths and uniqueness. He was also consistently frustrated with the separation of boys and girls - for lining up, for PE, for birthday parties... Eventually this also led to him feeling less confident.

Our move to Aurora has been fantastic. They celebrate our son for who he is, they have helped him become more comfortable in his own skin and his academic confidence has soared. I think Aurora truly excels in teaching and considering emotional development alongside academics. For example, our guy would often be extremely distracted after recess. Aurora has a ''calm down'' table, where kids can go for a few moments after recess to take a deep breath, watch a sand-flow or bubbles thing, and prepare themselves to be open to learn. This has helped his academics, but it is also giving him important life-skills in how to take a deep breath and focus on a new task.

In such a short time, Aurora has gotten to know our child and is helping him flourish. For example, he and his (male) teacher planned to wear their purple t-shirts with pink motorbikes on them on the same day. (The t-shirts were made by an Aurora parent who started a company called Handsome in Pink - just another example of the community being gender-aware, open and supportive of any child's true self). These small gestures reiterate that he has a place in this world and who he is is awesome, all of which is leading him down a path of self-acceptance and confidence that we thought was at risk in his previous school.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me privately, I am happy to answer questions regarding our experience at Aurora. pccckk

March 2015

I'm writing to recommend Aurora School as a stellar place for kids to learn and grow. Living in Berkeley, we might not have considered Aurora if not for a note like this one. We chose Aurora for our Kindergartener and every day I'm glad we did. Glowing review follows, but first I want to put a call out to parents of current Kindergarteners, who may be considering a change for the coming year. First grade spots are available at Aurora. (The current Kindergarten enrollment was smaller than usual, meaning a few spots will be open for rising 1st graders next year.) Also, Aurora is private, which means tuition. However, financial aid is available. Please don't let concerns about the cost prevent you from checking out this terrific learning community. One thing that strikes me about Aurora is that it manages to be a great fit for lots of different kinds of kids: the sporty, the artistic, the creative, the academic, the quiet, and the exhuberant alike can all find a place in the close community. We are thrilled that our girl is in the hands of a truly outstanding group of teachers. There is a big focus on continuing staff development. In turn, the curricula undergo continuous quality improvement, as well. Writing workshop, hands on math, gardening, music, the library-- it's all top notch. Classes are small enough that teachers are able to provide differentiated learning in ways small and large. They meet kids where they are and blow on the flame of curiosity, whether a child has mastered a skill or concept, or is just starting to develop. Kids get support for their learning styles and additional help is available to those who need 1 on 1 attention. Connection is a core value. There is a very strong social/emotional curricula at Aurora, with an emphasis on inclusion and kindness. I was struck by this at the recent K/1 musical, where 4th and 5th graders watched and appreciated the show without any eye-rolling or whispering. The whole school wrote notes of thanks and encouragement to the students who performed, and asked thoughtful questions at the end of the performance. The youngest students felt important and valued-- things we all want our children to feel at school. Mom of a happy Aurora Kid

Nov 2014

RE: Finding a school that is a good match

My child is typically-developing, good at academics and social skills, and loves gymnastics as well as art. She goes to Aurora School in Oakland, and she frequently tells me how much she loves it there. It is a progressive school with all the hallmarks of progressive education, as well as an outstanding social-emotional curriculum that includes self-reflection, collaboration, community-building, empathy, conflict-resolution, and social justice. There is definitely a mix of kids and interests. I've observed that at recess there is always either a baseball or basketball game, plus tag, kids on monkey bars, hula hoops, sand box play, four-square, and lots of other games. In my child's class there are active kids, verbal kids, serious kids, goofy kids, extroverts, introverts, baseball fans, golf fans, musical kids, inventive kids, artistic kids, etc., and maybe one shy kid. The thing is, maybe more of those kids would feel shy elsewhere, but it's a school that encourages confidence and excitement. Many children play on soccer teams, softball teams, etc. I recommend you go on a tour, specifically ask about this, and also observe a morning recess. You can also ask the admissions director, Lisa Piccione, to put you in touch with a family who has a sporty child.   Aurora parent

Nov 2014

RE: Finding a school that is a good match

I told my second grader about your post and asked him if he thought his school, Aurora School in Oakland, would be a good match for your son. He said that lots of people like different sports at his school and then he listed baseball, 4-square, football and soccer. (Does 4-square count as a sport?) I reminded him that he spent most of his K/1 play time in an ongoing game of tag or in the sandbox. In addition to ample recess and lunch play, Aurora has a great PE teacher who focuses on all sorts of non-competitive organized sports and skills within the context of the school's social/emotional program. In Extended Care, there is always some sort of organized game (kickball, tag, etc.) that kids beg to stay and play. My son also does sports outside of school.

In addition to all this run-around time, my son is growing by leaps and bounds academically. My husband and I are blown away at how he is suddenly reading up a storm. (He read a book while walking behind me on an errand the other day which is a brand new level of enthusiasm about reading.) He's telling us about rocks and landforms and the Panama Canal and Native American hoop dancing at dinner (and that was just tonight). He can spot a Keith Herring painting. He beat me last week at a math game he'd learned in class.

His confidence in himself as a learner has continued to grow each year and he is very open to all the different kinds of kids in the school. We attribute that in large part to the very intentional and thoughtful way his teachers combine the academics and the social/emotional. It's a sight to behold.

Your son sounds similar to mine and we faced a similar challenge when we looked at schools. No school is perfect, but we are very happy to have landed at Aurora. Perhaps it is a match for you as well.  Good luck with your search!

Oct 2014

Re: Seeking Mixed-Grade School for advanced kindergartener

Aurora School off Broadway Terrace in Oakland may be what you're looking for. All classes are mixed grade. There are two K/1 classes, two 2/3s and two 4/5s. Kids stay with the same teacher for two years and have the chance to get to know other kids a year older and a year younger in addition to their own grade. It's an amazing system that allows the two teachers in each class to meet each child where he or she is and help them move forward. It seems like you already have some good reasons for wanting a mixed grade class for your child, but you can read more about it here: Mixed grade has been incredibly valuable for my second grader and Aurora has exceeded our expectations. Good luck with your search!

Sept 2014

Re: Public school not working; any private openings?

My son is thriving at Aurora School which is an amazing private elementary school in the Upper Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland. Each classroom has a lead teacher and teaching assistant and students are well known by every adult (and most kids!) in the school. My son is learning and growing in ways we couldn't have imagined. His time there has, so far, exceeded our expectations. The good news for you is that I know there are still some spots available for THIS year! You can check in directly with the Admissions Director, Lisa Piccione to learn more and see if Aurora might be a good fit for your daughter. Good Luck!

I think Aurora School in the Upper Rockridge area has openings in its K/1 classes. Our son is a first grader there and loves the place. We do too. I honestly feel grateful on a daily basis that we found it. The current student/teacher ratio in K/1 is 8 students per teacher. The students get lots of specialized attention. The teaching quality is outstanding. ''Differentiation'' has become an education catchphrase, but this school truly practices it. Aurora also has a warm, welcoming community. I and others have rather recently posted in more detail about Aurora on this list. I encourage you to look in the archives and to call Lisa Piccione in admissions if you are interested. Sarah

Hi Cherise, I just wanted to tell you that I'm pretty sure there are openings at Aurora in the K/1, you can check with our admissions director, Lisa Piccione. We left our Oakland Public School when my kids were going into first and third grades because of the lack of individual attention. That was 3 years ago. We have been thrilled with Aurora. The class size is smaller AND there are two teachers in each classroom. The teachers are all wonderful, every single one. I'm not exaggerating. Our kids have thrived there beyond belief. Our daughter just graduated from the 5th grade and know what she wants to do on her day off from middle school? Come back and be a student for the day at Aurora again. (And that's what she'll be doing.) Our son was lost in the crowd in kindergarten. Now he has had three years of attention, love, and support from very fine teachers and he has become a great 4th grade leader.

The academics are tops at Aurora. The split classes are a wonderful concept because kids are experiencing differentiated learning right where they are at. Our Aurora graduate felt very stimulated by her classmates. She is now in 6th grade at Bentley school and is feeling exceptionally prepared after Aurora. Very pleased Aurora parent

Give Lisa, the admissions director at Aurora School a call. We were very happy there for both our kids (now graduates). It's a really special place with outstanding teachers. 

June 2014

Re: Academics, Soc/Emotional, and how boys learn!

Hi - Our son (2nd grade currently) is at Aurora School and has experienced the same issues in the last couple of years. He has exhibited a tendency to be silly in class, an inability to focus on task, etc. He also has no developmental or learning issues. The teaching staff at Aurora couldn't have been more proactive and helpful during these last two years. In fact, this year his teacher has commented on how much more engaged he is in writing (which historically has been especially challenging for him). The poem he wrote for the class poetry slam this year was absolutely incredible with a lot of detail and interspersed with many references to favorite activities. He also successfully participated in his class' research project where each child had to each identify an influential person, research that person and write a biography based on the research.

When his attention issues started manifesting themselves in 1st grade, his teacher contacted us and together we jointly developed a plan to be implemented both at school and at home. In addition, his teacher, recognizing his difficulty staying on task, developed additional strategies in class to help him. For our son, this included having him work in a quiet place in the classroom facing away from the other students wearing headphones. In other schools, this plan might have been a potential cause for teasing, but at Aurora, social-emotional development is such a part of the curriculum, that this was never an issue.

This type of proactive relationship has continued during his 2nd grade year. He has matured such that we no longer have to implement a special plan at home or at school. At this point, gentle reminders seem to work to keep him on task.

I think one of the reasons that our son's issue was so quickly and effectively addressed was due to Aurora's multi-graded classrooms. Our son had the same teacher for both his K-1 years. Therefore when his issues started manifesting themselves in 1st grade, his teacher knew him so well that she was able to identify the problem and suggest effective strategies to us very quickly. I can't recommend Aurora more highly. Both my children (who are very different learners) have thrived in the environment. I hope you will give Aurora serious consideration. Thanks! bella

I have two sons at Aurora, in 2nd and Kindergarten. In short, we love the school. For many reasons. But, specific to social/emotional my boys are getting an amazing education in what it means to be compassionate and kind and supportive and accepting and tolerant and inclusive. I would like to think that these are values that are modeled at home, but, truly, I believe we owe most of our sons' attitudes to Aurora. Once my son complained of feeling left out at school (I'm not even sure this was actually happening) but I mentioned it to his teacher and it was immediately taken very seriously. The teacher gently explored what was going on with my son, talked to the class about the importance of including everyone and did some role-playing around it all. I was blown away recently at parent conferences how both my sons' teachers were eager and willing to support things we're working on at home; there is a palpable emotional investment by the staff in your kids and the individualized attention due to small class sizes and student/teacher ratio can't be beat. I have volunteered in the classroom many times and marveled at how the teachers are able to calm and redirect kids who are struggling, or getting off course, or getting restless, or whatever. The kids are able to recalibrate and the class rhythm is maintained. From our experience at Aurora, the staff is phenomenal and their approach to teaching, on all levels: academic, social and emotional, is truly a gift to their students. Maury

Hi, I read your post with interest. I have a boy in grade 2 (about to be in 3rd!) at Aurora. He's a talker. He talks to anyone who sits next to him. For example, at morning meeting, it doesn't matter where they move him, he turns to talk to the person sitting next to him. His teachers reconfigured the morning meeting, and now the kids are staggered and my son doesn't sit next to anyone - and doesn't talk any more. He didn't feel it was punitive and he says he is working on this - to me, this is a positive. The other thing I appreciate about Aurora is that if the child needs to fidget while doing their work, they are allowed to chew gum (at special request from the parents), squeeze a small ball... or if the child is too distracted, the teachers have the child put on noise canceling head phones to better concentrate. My son has worn these and once again does not find any of these methods punitive or abnormal. Aurora celebrates that children learn different - some by kinetic learning and others by needing quiet.

Lastly, I also feel that Aurora has a strong academic program. My son's favorite subject this year is writing. The class focused on poetry and now he will stop what he's doing at home and write out a poem! Additionally, the math and science are strong and daily. They are balanced by music, movement, wood shop and art.

Last thing I want to add is that the Aurora emphasizes Social-Emotional Development. I see the results every day in how kind the children are to one another in the school and in daily life. Recently, we went on a school camping trip and I was in awe at how the 5th grade boys were including my 3 year old son! It was incredibly sweet and I really attribute this to the message that Aurora gives these boys. I know there is some space in Aurora for next year. You should contact Lisa Piccione. She can give you the full scoop! Good luck! Keri

We are the parents of a rising 4th grader who has been at Aurora since Kindergarten, and we cannot be happier with the support that the entire school have given us and our son as he goes through various developmental phases. Our son is also ''normal'' but he's also a boy, with all of the wiggly, inattentive habits that boys can have. Aurora has been fantastic with supporting the kids with time to move between academic activities (or even during them). Aurora also in my opinion helps mold the kids into good people, with their attentiveness to the social and emotional growth of the children -- they have ''talk it out'' sessions for conflict resolution, they learn to listen to others, they even learn correct phrasing ie ''I feel'' sentences to open up communication during conflict. Stuff that is not typically taught in public school.

When our son has gone through phases where he has strong emotions keeping him from focusing on his school work, instead of punishing him the teachers and staff have been incredibly supportive to help him build the tools to manage his strong feelings so that he can get back to work, and he has grown incredibly in this area (of managing his emotions). The staff makes sure he eats the food we send in to keep his energy level good.

The boys are great friends with each other and with the girls in the school, and the friendships and games extend across grade levels which is wonderful to see. Another great thing about Aurora is the mixed level classes -- 2 years with 2 teachers in one classroom. This gives your child room to stretch academically, and also allows the teachers to really know the child.

I hope that helps! Happy Aurora Parent

May 2014

Re: Kindergarten openings in private schools?

You should contact Aurora School. I have a masters in education and my spouse is an artist, and we have both had our expectations exceeded by our daughter's experience at Aurora. She has made major progress in skills, content knowledge, and self-confidence. The social-emotional and anti-bias curricula are excellent and based on self-awareness, empathy, and community-building. The ''extras'' are fantastic- lots of art, music, PE, Spanish, and library. K-1 have woodshop and 2-5 have computers. I love that my child is given choices everyday, has freedom to move around, and is constantly creating things: stories, math games, sculptures. I love that every week she brings home library books. I love that she feels competent and brave enough to take risks and make mistakes. The community is very involved, and very committed to the school. Aurora parent

Aurora School in Upper Rockridge has some openings in the K/1 class. Our son is just finishing his Kindergarden there, and we have been very happy with the teaching quality, the warmth and inclusion of the community, and the social/emotional learning that Aurora incorporates into every aspect of their program.  sarah c.

Aurora School has openings for fall 2014. It's a great place - strong academics, truly progressive curriculum (both academic and social-emotional), warm community. Our bright, active 2nd grade boy loves it there. Aurora Mom

March 2014

Re: Aurora vs. Park Day vs. The Berkeley School?
Hi! I can answer your questions on Aurora School, from my and my son's experience. -Is the play yard adequate? Are there any opportunities for kids to get outside in nature (as opposed to the blacktop)? I remember that there are garden beds nearby. How often do students visit them?

At first, this worried me greatly too! But it seems to matter little to my son. He loves the play structure, sand box and the black top for playing ball and court games. I also see the girls playing with the boys too. The K-1 students get to garden 2x per month and go on 4-5 field trips each year. There are 4 or so field trips to natural areas each year for each grade level (split grade levels). I thought it would matter to my son not to have any dirt, but the kids get so much recess, lunch and PE that it has not been an issue. He likes to be outside is the bottom line, and Aurora allows for that!

-What, if any, is the impact of larger class sizes on classroom management or student learning? With 25 kids in a class do the teachers have a chance to focus on each student? Do the classrooms get loud?

So each class is a split level. There are 2 full time teachers per class. My son is in 2nd grade. He has 12 2nd graders and 12 3rd graders. When the 3rd graders are out doing art, for example, the 2nd graders might be doing a writing workshop with the 2 teachers. That's a 1:6 ratio of teacher to student. The teachers spend plenty of time one-on-one with each student and always know what's going on when I ask... It doesn't seem loud or chaotic when I pick my child up early from his class. Aurora teaches a lot about respecting others and I feel like it translates into how the kids interact. It's noisy, like all children are prone to be... but not chaotic nor out of control.

-What are your impressions of the faculty in general? I really like the faculty at Aurora! Everyone is respectful and kind and accessible. I feel like my questions and inquiries are met with a seriousness and answered earnestly. I feel like it is a safe place for me to ask questions as well.

Overall, my son is thriving at Aurora. The community is sweet and kind and that is reflected from the children as well. ~mom of 2nd grader at Aurora

Hi, My son is a K student at Aurora, so I can only speak about that school. It is a very special place for more reasons that I can count. However, our main reason in selecting Aurora was the quality of the teaching. There is not one teacher I wouldn't be thrilled for my son to have. The administration places high priority on teacher development and satisfaction, and as a result, Aurora has some of the best teachers around. This is true not only of the classroom teachers, but also those who teach music, art, wood shop, Spanish, P.E., etc.

I'm not sure why you think the classes are large. My son is in a K/1 class with 20 students and two teachers--basically a 10 to 1 student/teacher ratio that is even smaller when the children take turns doing pull-outs for art, music, library, etc. There is also a lot of volunteer parent involvement in the classroom. The children frequently work in small groups with individual attention, and the teachers really do practice differentiation rather than just talking about it (which is the case with many other schools). To respond to your question about noise, I have never experienced the classrooms as loud.

The lack of green space was my only concern when making my decision last year, but it really has been less of an issue than I thought. Every time I have visited the school, the children are having a blast on the play yard. This is also where they eat when the weather permits. There are also field trips to outdoor spaces, including nearby Lake Temescal and Crab Cove in Alameda. The children do garden in outside garden beds behind the school, and my son talks about working in the garden regularly. I can't tell you how often they do this, but when the weather permits, I would guess it is at least weekly. In the fall, I'm pretty sure it was more often. So while I would love it if Aurora had a large yard with lots of greenery and extensive gardens with chickens and such, the school's strong points heavily outweigh the fact that it doesn't. -Sarah

I have a kindergartener at Aurora, and I am very, very happy with our experience. My child is excited to go to school and is thriving. We looked at other schools, and ultimately Aurora was the best fit for our child and our family. In answer to your specific questions:

I find the play yard totally adequate. It is big enough to support many games, includes a sand box, a challenging climbing structure, a tire swing, and basketball hoops. There is plenty of room for PE games. It is also well-supervised. My child only occasionally goes to the garden or plays on the hillside next to the school. We have plenty of other opportunities to be in dirt and nature, so the concrete yard wasn't a concern for me; and my child spends recess playing with friends and running off energy.

I think the classroom size is ideal. There are enough children to create lots of opportunities for friendship, and not so many that it ever feels crowded. My child's class has 20 children and 2 teachers, but the class is often split into two groups (sometimes by grade level and sometimes not), and half the class goes to PE, Spanish, library, etc., leaving 10 children in the room with two teachers. I have been in the classroom many times for volunteer jobs or parties, and it has never felt noisy or chaotic. The schedule, transitions, and physical arrangement of the room are extremely well organized. The teachers are very experienced and skilled at classroom management and creating a supportive, inclusive classroom culture. My child, who has a shy temperament and is very sensitive to transitions, feels confident, competent, excited, and cared for.

My impressions of the staff in general are that they are fantastic. They are so excited about the material they teach and about the students. I feel so grateful to have them at my child's school. I particularly like the frequent collaboration that occurs across classrooms and with the specialist teachers. Happy Aurora parent

Hi! I can answer your questions on Aurora School, from my and my son's experience.

-Is the play yard adequate? Are there any opportunities for kids to get outside in nature (as opposed to the blacktop)? I remember that there are garden beds nearby. How often do students visit them?

At first, this worried me greatly too! But it seems to matter little to my son. He loves the play structure, sand box and the black top for playing ball and court games. I also see the girls playing with the boys too. The K-1 students get to garden 2x per month and go on 4-5 field trips each year. There are 4 or so field trips to natural areas each year for each grade level (split grade levels). I thought it would matter to my son not to have any dirt, but the kids get so much recess, lunch and PE that it has not been an issue. He likes to be outside is the bottom line, and Aurora allows for that!

-What, if any, is the impact of larger class sizes on classroom management or student learning? With 25 kids in a class do the teachers have a chance to focus on each student? Do the classrooms get loud?

So each class is a split level. There are 2 full time teachers per class. My son is in 2nd grade. He has 12 2nd graders and 12 3rd graders. When the 3rd graders are out doing art, for example, the 2nd graders might be doing a writing workshop with the 2 teachers. That's a 1:6 ratio of teacher to student. The teachers spend plenty of time one-on-one with each student and always know what's going on when I ask... It doesn't seem loud or chaotic when I pick my child up early from his class. Aurora teaches a lot about respecting others and I feel like it translates into how the kids interact. It's noisy, like all children are prone to be... but not chaotic nor out of control.

-What are your impressions of the faculty in general? I really like the faculty at Aurora! Everyone is respectful and kind and accessible. I feel like my questions and inquiries are met with a seriousness and answered earnestly. I feel like it is a safe place for me to ask questions as well.

Overall, my son is thriving at Aurora. The community is sweet and kind and that is reflected from the children as well. ~mom of 2nd grader at Aurora

Feb 2014

Hi, We are in the kindergarten placement waiting process for both Oakland USD and a number of private schools. I'm wondering if anyone has any updated reviews for Aurora School? Thanks! M

Aurora is a gem. Your kid will know everyone and everyone will know your kid and celebrate them for who they are. The school focuses on developmental learning and your kid will have fun and be engaged. The multi-graded aspect allows for true subject mastery while allowing kids to function where they are at developmentally. Your kids will get to perform in plays, sing songs, do great art, and get a great education. Aurora kids are smart, kind, and well adapted socially. You'll have your choice of middle schools when it comes time. We heart Aurora. Parent of an Aurora alumn

My son has attended Aurora School since kindergarten and is now in 5th grade, so I'm in a better position to give you a sense of Aurora than Mills. Both schools are committed to progressive education and have a constructivist curriculum; both emphasize the social-emotional dimensions of learning. Both have multi-age classrooms. Some or the areas where Aurora really shines and/or differs from Mills are the following:

1. Aurora is a small, nurturing school, but it is bigger than Mills. At Mills, I think there is one classroom for each grade grouping, whereas at Aurora there are two K/1 classrooms, two 2/3 classrooms, and two 4/5 classrooms. This creates a larger social pool, more opportunities for friendships and more options for mixing kids in different ways when it's time to change classrooms. I think this is a big advantage.

2. Aurora's specialists curriculum is fantastic and well-integrated into what is going on in the classrooms. Art, music, movement, PE, library, woodshop, Spanish, and computers (starting in second grade) are all very strong at the school. When the K/1s are studying trees, they are learning about different kinds of wood in woodshop, sketching trees and leaves in art, singing songs about the parts of a tree in music, and in movement they might pretend to be trees or animals who live in trees and forests.

3. The library. Aurora's library is incredible. It has 10,000+ volumes, about the same size as a large OUSD elementary school library. All students take library class once a week where they learn about genres, how libraries and information are organized, how books are made, experience visits from authors, and discover their own interests as readers. It's a very special resource and an unusual one for a small school.

As for the academics at the 2/3 and 4/5 level, we have been pleased with the high expectations and rigor and amazed at all that our son is learning. This year they are studying North America, and in particular the encounter between European and Chinese explorers/exploiters and native peoples from a variety of angles and critical perspectives. Before Christmas, they embarked on a three week in-depth study of westward expansion by reading New Found Land by Allan Wolf and reflecting deeply on the Corps of Discovery (the Lewis and Clark expedition) through art, writing, group discussions, and poetry. In science this year they've studied the solar system and are now onto the human body. I have no doubt that my son will be more than ready for middle school.

It's fine to ask to visit the schools again if you want to take a second look at what is going on in the upper grade classrooms.

May 2013

Re: Elementary School that works well with little boys
Our son - who's very bright and very energetic - has been really happy at Aurora. We chose the school because of its focus on both strong academics and social/emotional learning. While lots of schools say that, we found that Aurora really walked the talk - kids learn skills for resolving conflicts, getting along in groups or on-on-one, problem-solving in the classroom, understanding themselves and their learning styles, ''flex their mistake muscles'' and analyze how they could improve in the future. Classrooms are multiage, with older kids setting examples for the younger. Teachers spend a lot of time out of school learning about child development, different ways kids learn, and positive discipline - and I can see the effects. Teachers at Aurora understand that kids - especially many K-1 boys - are wiggly and excited. There's time to work alone with pen and paper, but it's supported by and interspersed with time together on the rug, moving around, learning using all the senses. Kids are taught nondisruptive ways to show support, excitement, and disagreement - for example, a hand signal that means ''me, too!. They play math games that involve lots of building and moving around - for example, kindergarteners measuring each other and graphing the results. They paint sets and make costumes for amazing school plays. Easily distracted kids (my son included) can use headphones and set up ''offices'' around the classroom to help them focus during writers' workshop. Teachers are loving, silly, and supportive. Kids who are struggling in a particular area - for example, handwriting - can work with a learning specialist or teacher to build specific skills. Kids who excel in areas get opportunities to take their ideas as far as they want. Rather than being one-size-fits-all (''all children must be reading x sight words by y date, or they'll be Behind!''), the curriculum is designed to meet each kid where he or she is and work with individual learning styles. I think Aurora works well for a range of kids, especially those who are curious and self motivated. If your kid does best with a lot of repetition - same thing at the same time every day - and responds best to a highly structured authority system, it won't be a good fit. But if you want a smart, progressive, thoughtful, loving community where people love kids and help them develop into happy, confident whole people, it's ideal. We love it. Lisa

May 2013

Re: Noise Reduction Headphones in the Classroom?
Aurora, where my son is in 1st grade, uses headphones. They're great - kids can use them as needed (they're in a basket for anyone's use), and there's no stigma attached. They're seen as a tool kids can use - like slant boards or pencil grips - to help themselves work more successfully and happily. Easily distracted kids can use them during, say, writers' workshop. Noise-sensitive kids can use them during choice time if they're feeling overwhelmed. I wouldn't like if they were mandated, but it seems that the kids who use them do so as part of a plan they've worked out with the teacher (or teacher + learning specialist). I love that students are being encouraged to figure out what they need to work well, and how to get it. Lisa

Dec 2012

Re: Schools that foster creativity?
Check out Aurora School which fosters creativity not just in it's art and music classes, but throughout it's curriculum. Both our kids have thrived there (this is our 9th year there). 

Pllease check out Aurora School off Broadway Terrace in Oakland (very close to Berkeley) where creativity is fostered and nurtured across the curriculum and in all grades. There are plenty of very creative peanuts there. P.

Nov 2012

Aurora has been a perfect fit for our son and our family. Their progressive education model, academic rigor, emphasis on social/emotional curriculum, and community development has been a, dare I say, utopian experience. The school also embraces LGBTQ families on a multitude of levels. Happy Aurora Mom

Nov 2012

Re: Transitional Kindergarten in Berkeley
If you are willing to consider a small commute to Oakland, you might consider Aurora school in Oakland. While they don't have a ''transitional kindergarten'', their Kindergarten cutoff is age 5 by December 1. Our son is a November birthday, but was ready for a Kindergarten experience. We also checked out both independent and public transitional kindergarten options, but found Aurora's progressive education model and emphasis on social/emotional curriculum a perfect fit for our son, who is a young kindergartner. Happy school Mom

Oct 2012

Re: Hands-on, no-homework private/charter elementary?
You mentioned that you weren't sure about the educational philosophy that most appeals to you. Given your interest in emergent curriculum and project-based schooling, you might want to explore progressive education. Reading Alfie Kohn's books / articles are a great place to start. Here is a wonderful list of his writings from his website:

There are a number of schools in the East Bay with a progressive education philosophy. We were similarly interested in a creative, engaged learning environment and ended up choosing Aurora School in Oakland off Broadway Terrace. Aurora is dedicated to progressive education, has multi-graded classrooms (K/1, 2/3, and 4/5 -- students loop with the same teacher for two years), fabulous specialist teachers (music, art, Spanish, movement, PE, woodshop, computers, library), an INCREDIBLE library (10,000 volumes -- the same size as or bigger than many large public elementary schools with five times the number of students and an amazing librarian who sat on the Newberry Medal committee two years ago), and a lovely community of families.

A few of the reasons Aurora appealed to us (and why we've been so happy with the school) include:

*Aurora's very strong emphasis on social and emotional development which is an integral part of the curriculum and culture of the school. Children learn who they are as individuals and as part of a community. They are supported in discovering what kind of learners they are and where their interests lie. There is also a conflict resolution process, and all the kids learn how to express their feelings and resolve conflicts. My son has felt so safe there and has such a beautiful sense of belonging.

*There is no rote learning, no teaching to the test, and no worksheets at Aurora. The curriculum is very creative, and children are actively engaged in student-centered, hands-on learning.

*No homework in kindergarten and first grade. Starting in second grade there is a weekly homework packet that takes a total of 30-90 minutes per week (depending on the week and the child). There is more homework in 4th and 5th grade, but it is fairly minimal, relevant, and the intention is to prepare students for middle school homework. I am not a fan of homework in general, and we haven't found it to be particularly burdensome at all (my son is now in 4th grade).

*12:1 max student:teacher ratio. Every classroom has two full-time teachers. This is a huge advantage in my opinion. So much of the time in younger grades is spent managing behavior (even if the kids aren't particularly unruly, they have to transition from one activity to the next, listen, focus, etc.). When you have two teachers, one can TEACH and the other can help children settle and/or manage any difficult behaviors without constantly interrupting the flow of the lesson.

*Multi-grade classrooms: this means your child stays with the same teachers for two years. This is wonderful for the child who becomes really well known by his teachers. They are able to cater to his learning style and give him support where he needs it and challenge him where he needs it.

*Aurora is a small school with a cozy, nurturing environment, but it also has a large enough social pool to allow for lots of connections and friendships among the kids. There are many opportunities for older children to mentor younger children, and many kids develop friendships across grade levels (the multiage classrooms help with this too!).

*Aurora's art, movement, music and Spanish programs are wonderful and fully integrated into the curriculum. For example, when the kindergartners are studying tress, they might sketch trees in their art class or use bark and leaves in creative ways, learn about different kinds of wood in woodshop, and learn songs and dances about trees in music and movement (Aurora has woodshop which is a much loved, wonderfully creative part of the curriculum and a huge favorite among the kids).

*There is a genuine culture of kindness among the children at Aurora. The older kids are so gentle and sweet with the little ones, and many younger children count older children among their friends. We love that aspect of the school.

The best way to know whether a school would be a good fit for your child and family is to visit. Feel free to contact the admissions director Lisa Piccione.

Oct 2012

If you are looking for an elementary school in the Oakland/Berkeley area, please come visit Aurora School. I have one child who has graduated from Aurora and my other child is in the 3rd grade. Aurora is multi-graded, (K-1, 2-3 and 4-5) meaning that Kindergarten and first graders, 2nd and third graders, and fourth and fifth graders share a classroom and a teacher for two years. This allows each child to learn at their own pace, for the older children to become leaders, and for the younger children to learn from the older ones. Class size is small (usually 22 students) with one lead teacher and one assistant. The teachers are trained to teach to a variety of learners and are caring and nurturing. The curriculum is challenging academically in a progressive way, i.e. less focus on worksheets and memorizing and more focus on thinking and citizenship. The homework is reasonable and useful. There is wonderful before school care and after school care, enrichment classes, community service projects and so much more! The community is amazing and we've made life-long friends at Aurora! 
Happy Aurorian

March 2012

Re: so many good schools to choose from - which one?
After a search similar to yours, we decided to send our son to Aurora. Similar to BH and PD, Aurora is a school with a progressive educational philosophy and constructivist approach. The multi-age classrooms were a huge draw for us, and they have been wonderful. The advantages of staying with the same teacher for two years are immense, and children learn so much from kids older than them and from nurturing kids who are younger. That same structure is what creates such a lovely culture of kindness at the school. Everyone knows everyone, and kids are in class with kids who are both older and younger than them. So, the opportunities for friendships multiply, and as kids mix and match there seems to be a really healthy social and emotional environment at the school. The math curriculum is probably very similar to PD and BH. Aurora uses ''Bridges in Mathematics'' which you can Google to check out. As for humanities, Aurora has a tradition of each grade putting on a performance every year. The performances are a culmination of the children's work around a theme and a great learning experience. This also brings me to my earlier point which is that the art, music, Spanish, woodshop, library, movement, and computer specialists classes are integrated with what is going on in the classroom. So rather than going to art and doing something unrelated to what you are studying, the themes and areas of inquiry are all coordinated so that your child is examining things at a deep level. For example, if the kindergartners are studying trees, they might learn about different kinds of wood in woodshopt, go outside to sketch trees in art, learn songs about trees and forests in music, create movements and dances about trees in movement, and read about trees in library or talk about how trees are used to make books. Then they go on a field trip to plant trees, visit Muir Woods, and perform a play about the rainforest.

I'm sure that I'm am biased toward Aurora since that is where we landed, but I honestly don't think you can go wrong with the four schools you are considering. And I'm sure you have many more specific questions. 

Nov 2011

Re: Looking for small school, flexibly paced program
Check out Aurora School in Oakland.  It accepts that students are at different places in different subjects, there is a small teacher/student ratio. Our children have thrived there over the past 8 years. The teachers are exceptional. 

April 2011

Re: Schools - children with different learning styles
Aurora School, a K-5 independent school in the Oakland hills, fits your criteria. Aurora has been very good for my active 5th grade boy and for schoolmates with a wide variety of learning styles.  Deborah

Jan 2011

Re: Seeking advice on elementary schools in Elmwood
We live in the Elmwood and send our kids to Aurora School in the Upper Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland. It's about a 10 minute drive. It's been a wonderful experience for both of them. 

Nov 2010

Re: What are some progressive schools in Berkeley/Oakland?
We ultimately decided to send our son to Aurora School. This is his third year there, and we are incredibly happy with our choice. Aurora is dedicated to progressive education, has multi-graded classrooms (K/1, 2/3, and 4/5 -- students loop with the same teacher for two years), fabulous specialist teachers (music, art, Spanish, movement, PE, woodshop, computers, library), an INCREDIBLE library (10,000 volumes -- the same size as or bigger than many large public elementary schools with five times the number of students and an amazing librarian who sits on the Newberry Medal committee), and a lovely community of families. There is a culture of kindness that permeates the entire school and especially characterizes relationships between the children and among the teachers and parents. My son has felt so safe there and has such a beautiful sense of belonging. He LOVES school and came home every day the first few weeks of second grade saying how he was ''overjoyed'' to be back at school.

Nov 2010

Re: What are some progressive schools in Berkeley/Oakland?
Aurora School is a progressive elementary school in Oakland. It has been an amazing place for both our children. 

Nov 2010

Re: What are some progressive schools in Berkeley/Oakland?
I have a 5th grade son and am still loving Aurora School in the Oakland Hills, off Broadway Terrace. My son entered in 3rd grade and was welcomed whole-heartedly. Since then he has had individualized attention to his particular needs and a warm and loving community of kids, families, teachers and staff. Please look at Aurora if you are searching for a progressive K-5 school with a kind and respectful approach to kids. Deborah

Oct 2010

Re: Oakland elementary that values creativity, peace, fun, learning
After reading your post, I can say that you would be incredibly happy at Aurora School! We live in Berkeley and we chose to send our 2 children there as it was the most inspiring place we visited!! The teachers are resourceful, creative, and supportive...they treat each child individually, work with them on social/developmental issues, and use outside-of-the-box methods of teaching. The community is caring, joyful and warm, and the staff are receptive and helpful. My children are challenged, engaged and inspired....and HAPPY!! They are learning and growing beautifully. Happy kids! Happy mom!!

May 2010

Re: Private school that is not trying to prove itself academically
Aurora School in the Oakland hills is a small, progressive K-5 school that focuses on each child's learning style and needs, with great attention and kindness. My now-fourth grader began there in third grade. I am very happy with the welcome he received and the continuing support he gets from the Aurora community. Deborah

May 2010

Re: Race to Nowhere - Questioning Public Schools
We and our children (grades 5 & 2) have loved Aurora School in Oakland. It is definitely not in the Race to Nowhere! The kids learn lots and lots, but they don't do standardized tests, leaning is fun, deep and meaningful. There is homework beginning in 2nd grade, but it is not very much. One of the things I've loved about Aurora is it respects both children and childhood. Kids are not expected to be little adults. I don't know if there are still K openings. Contact Lisa Piccione, the Admissions Director.

Dec 2009

Re: Park Day, Aurora or The Berkeley School
My son was accepted into Park Day and Aurora and we had to choose between them also. We ended up choosing Aurora and are very happy that we did (so that is my bias), but I don't think you can go wrong with either one. Some of the differences between Aurora and Park Day and the things we considered:

Park Day

*top notch teachers
*leaders in progressive education and service learning
*larger school
*single grade classrooms
*we didn't feel the art, music, and Spanish were as well integrated into the classroom and rest of the academic program as they are at Aurora
*Spanish is more emphasis on familiarity than acqusition.
*wonderful outdoor space (although more difficult to supervise than Aurora's more spare playground)


*11:1 max student:teacher ratio. Every classroom has two full-time teachers. This is a huge advantange in my opinion. So much of the time in younger grades is spent managing behavior (even if the kids aren't particularly unruly, they have to transition from one activity to the next, listen, focus, etc.). When you have two teachers, one can TEACH and the other can help children settle and/or manage any difficult behaviors without constantly interrupting the flow of the lesson.

*multi-grade classrooms: this means your child stays with the same teachers for two years. This is wonderful for the child who is really known by his teachers. They are able to cater to his learning style and give him support where he needs it and challenge him where he needs it.

*Aurora is a smaller (1/2 the size of Park Day), cozier school and community. Overall, it felt to us like a warmer and more nurturing environment than Park Day when we visited or spoke with families from both.

*Aurora's art, movement, music and Spanish programs are wonderful and fully integrated into the curriculum. Aurora also has woodshop which is a much loved, wonderfully creative part of the curriculum and a huge favorite among the kids.

*School plays -- your child will be in a play every year except for one (that year they will participate in a special author's/poetry night). The plays are really special and integrate many aspects of the curriculum, culminating in a fun performance.

*This may be true at Park Day as well, but there is such a genuine culture of kindness among the children at Aurora. The older kids are so gentle and sweet with the little ones, and many younger children count older children among their friends. We love that aspect of the school.

We requested and were able to go back and observe in the classrooms again, and that really helped with our decision. You might ask if you can do that? It could give you more information. Good luck with your decision.

After much visiting, those schools were our three finalists as well. My perspective comes from being a progressive mom and educator. At all three schools your child will be loved and the community will share in many of your beliefs. In making our decision we were most influenced by the size, the configuration, and the level of development of the curricular programs. I like a smaller school which is easier to manage and fosters a strong sense of connection for the children throughout the grades especially with a well done mixed grade approach, so we decided against Park. Berkeley fits the size and configuration profile we liked, but the program is undergoing dramatic curricular changes and we were looking for more continuity between the grades. I also think that making a change and experiencing a new peer group for the middle school years is a healthy challenge for a child that age. So we didn't worry about Aurora being K-5. We'll be looking at both Park and Berkeley for middle school when the time comes. -Happy Aurora parent

Hi, I could not be happier we made the choice we did, Aurora has turned out to be a perfect fit in a number of ways, and my daughter is thriving.

Her interest in reading is such that we are now reading starter books together at night- The other things we really like about Aurora School are:

1. Spanish- my daughter is both using words she has learned daily and also singing songs in Spanish on a regular basis. She loves it and its fun to be out spoken in a foreign language by your 5 year old.

2. Music is a big part of Aurora and really an exceptional program. Every Tuesday morning Aurora has a school wide assembly (parents welcome) with singing as a big part of it. They also have a wonderful music class on a regular basis.

3. The Extended Care Program is just exceptional! It is well run with great staff, structured activities, art, and a good staff to student ratio. It is hard to get her to leave when I pick her up. OOPS almost left out wood shop! My daughter came home with a wooden puzzle she made in wood shop yesterday with working pieces and all. I was stunned a 5 year old could do this.

4. Parent Involvement is really a big part of the Aurora community. I have a great gig where I take the 10 kindergartners in my daughter's class to the library for their weekly session, assisting the librarian, Kathy Shepler, who is fantastic! She peaks their interest in books at a surprising high level for kindergarteners.

5. The most significant asset at Aurora School is the quality of the teachers. My daughter¼s Lead Teacher is one of the most remarkable teachers I have ever seen. There are always two teachers in the classroom, which from first hand experience, I have seen the benefits. The Lead teacher is not distracted if one kid needs to be spoken to individually.

6. Class Size- 21 kindergarten students, split between 1st graders and kindergartners. The multi grades in one class thing is something that surprised me when I first heard about it-but it has become clear to me, that the older kids help the littler ones which is awesome and then the younger ones will have their turn.

7. School Size- there are 6 classrooms, all with 2 grades each- K/1st, 2/3, and 4/5- the total school is less than 120 students.

8. Emotional Support- the transition has not been without issues, which is not surprising. What is surprising is how on top of it Aurora is. They have counselors, and many resources. This coupled with good communication from her teachers has given us tools to manage ups and downs at home. A lot of the above is really not just my observations, but also a comparative base from parents I talk to that have their kids at other schools, both public and private.

I have heard things like a very large school can be overwhelming. Also, aftercare programs that don't have enough staff and are so large that parents have taken their kids out. I am a product of Oakland public schools and a big supporter of the community however my daughter's experiences have reaffirmed our decision.

These are big choices and I remember feeling a bit lost, unsure what was the right move.   -charlie

Nov 2009

We're looking at Aurora School in Oakland for our K next year. Our child really loves the time spend outside at his current school and Aurora's lack of on campus green space and sparce playard concerns me. Has it been a negative for any of your children attending. I know they walk to Temescal Park, but that doesn't make up for a green space on site. Maybe green space matters less as the children spend more time on academics anyway or don't miss it? Any comments?

My very active son happily attended Aurora until he graduated and Aurora's yard worked really well for him. Parents when they look at it always wish for grass but kids don't miss it a bit. The school staggers when kids are in the yard so it isn't everyone at the same time. Also kids tend to group themselves in different areas - the sand box, the play structure, the 4 square court, the basketball court, riding scooters, etc. It is actually quite a large yard as these things go. One other thing I really came to appreciate over the years - the level of supervision on the yard. There are always numerous adults out there and no corners for kids to get into unsupervised trouble. They are particularly gifted at observing and intervening in any playground issues (when your kids are older you will hear how often the hot button issues all take place at recess). As a result Aurora kids tend to be very thoughtful and kind to each other and have a great ability to talk things out. We were really happy there and my son really flourished. Don't let the yard stop you if you like the school, it is a really special place. Good luck in your search.

Outdoor space at Aurora School

Aurora School is housed in a charming building that is leased from Holy Names High School for the last 18 years. We just signed a new 10 year lease and are delighted to stay in our home. It is the perfect size for our current 110 students, grades K-5.

For outdoor space Aurora School has a large yard with a large play structure, tire swing and sandbox. There is a path where kids can ride tricycles and scooters. Areas are also set aside for four square, wall ball, and games such as soccer, football, and basketball. Students are staggered by grade level out on to the yard for recess, lunch and P.E. throughout the day. There is plenty of room for the kids to play. The teachers love the size of the play yard because it is easy to see what children are up to in every corner and to supervise. You are welcome to come visit during the day and see the playground in action. Contact me at lisa [at] to set up a visit.

For green space, teachers at Aurora cross the Holy Names High School driveway and enter the HNHS gardens. Whether it during Art class to paint, writerC-s workshop to write a poem, science to garden in the many garden beds in front of and on the side of the school, or even to math outside on beautiful day, Aurora teachers use this beautiful space as desired.

For field day, science excursions and even to have a picnic Aurora is located only one mile from Lake Temescal with itC-s beautiful grassy fields. For a special outing, teachers, students and parents enjoy walking over to Lake Temescal, having lunch, playing games and walking back.

The Aurora classroom is an exciting, hands-on place to learn and share strategies with other learners. When we leave the classroom we enhance our learning and then come back to our home base to draw it, write about it and share what we love most about it with each other. Lisa Piccione, Admissions Director

That was one of my top concerns when I was looking at Aurora for K (my daughter is in 3rd there now). I do wish there was a lunchroom but once she started she seemed very happy with the space. We spent a lot of after-school time in the adjacent Holy Names High School garden and the specialists and teachers go to the garden also fairly frequently. Good luck with your search, feel free to email me if you have more Aurora Qs! Kristine

In response to your question about Aurora's play yard, to me there are so many positives to Aurora's program and teachers and the way the play yard is managed that we have not missed the lack of green space. My son is very happy in the program at Aurora and wants to go to school on the weekends! Of course, I provde him with outdoor time in the forest/park as much as possible.

The plusses to the play yard, for me, are:
- Teachers can see all the children. If someone needs comforting or guidance, the teachers respond immediately. It was very important to me to have a supervised yard.
- The yard is really wonderful for playing group games, ball games, and riding scooters and bikes.
- The yard is a comfortable size for the children and they interact with each other.

At my son's previous school, he tended to remain on the outskirts and almost hide while outside. On the Aurora yard he is included and actively participating. happy at aurora

The lack of green/limited playground space was our only concern when we enrolled our son at Aurora. We have found outdoor time here to be wonderful for the children. The staff pays just as much time to fostering a sense of connection, respect, and togetherness between the children during the outside break times as they do in the classrooms! I wonder whether the space actually helps that to happen. -Parent of a second grader

Nov 2009

Re: Challenging Progressive School?
We went through a similar thought process and are happily at Aurora School in the Oakland Hills. The most impressive aspect is the coherence of the program throughout the grades(without relying on simple textbooks) with specialists well integrated into the daily experiences. Highly skilled teachers and specialists. Yes, wonderful attention to the individual social-emotional development which is tied into the self-reflection part of a strong academic program. Creativity is valued and supported as part of the learning process but not at the expense of developing sound study habits. Individual strengths and needs are clearly recognized and addressed. It's a small school with a great family community, well worth a visit. -Parent of a second grader

Nov 2009

Re: Challenging Progressive School?
Six years ago, we were in the same situation you are in. Our daughter was way ahead academically and our public schools (several Berkeley elementary schools I visited) told me that their approach would be for her to be a teacher's helper. She is now a 5th grader at Aurora School, where she's been since Kindergarden, and I don't think we could have made a better choice. We chose Aurora because its philosophy was that children learn in different ways and at different paces and it had the structure (teacher and aide in the class plus volunteers) to realistically implement that philosophy. We also chose it because there was a palpable sense of joy there, an emphasis on learning being fun (which does not mean unrigorous!), and a commitment to children's social and emotional development. As for rigor, all the kids are learning things years ahead of when I did them (e.g. expository paragraphs and essays, learning ''base'' number systems). Aurora puts a great emphasis on in-depth knowledge and understanding; this is particularly great in math, where kids understand why things work not just how to do them. I think for kids like ours, this is particularly good because there is so much they can get out of it. It being her last year, I also appreciate that the teachers have seen her as a whole person, not just an academic star. The greatest proof that this was the right place is she is upset if she's sick and can't go to school. She still has a great enthusiasm for school and for learning. 

Jan 2009

Re: Summer Art Camp for 5 year old
Aurora School, in the Upper Rockridge neighborhood in Oakland, has a variety of wonderful half day camps for 5-12 year olds-- art and other subjects in the summer. You can take one half day camp or 2 for full day and extended care is available as well. My kids have taken many of these over the years. They have always been taught by wonderful teachers and have been very creative. Many of the kids attending do not go to Aurora, so all are very welcome. The homey environment makes it especially great for younger kids. Info will probably come out in the next few weeks. During July, they also run a fabulous theater arts camp where the kids put on a musical at the end.   Lori

Nov 2008

We are looking for a school in Oakland/Berkeley that would serve our curious, active, spirited, sensitive, smart son. We are looking for smaller class size; creative, effective ways to channel his energy; contact with nature; gentle, firm discipline strategies; and an inspiring curriculum. Any suggestions? Would love to hear your personal experiences.

Check out Aurora School. It does everything you are looking for. 

Oct 2008

Re: St. Paul's, Redwood Day, Prospect, Black Pine?
Check out Aurora School. This school is in a classic feeling school building off of Hwy 13. They are dedicated to developmental learning, cultural diversity, and the kids social, emotional, and academic development. The kids have Spanish daily and the school is ''greener'' than I could have imagined. My son is in kindergarten and I could not be happier with his class.   Monica

Oct 2008

Re: Looking for a good K-8 school
Check out Aurora School. It's an independent (private) school. My son started kindergarten this year and we are 100% satisfied with it so far. They are concerned with the kids' educational and emotional development and it is moving towards becoming a Spanish bilingual school. I think the website is The staff is fantastic and the afterschool program is exceptional. My son wants me to pick him up from school after 6 every day (the school day ends at 2:20 and the afterschool program ends at 6!) Monica

Dec 2007

Re: Good school for jumpy boy bored at public school
Check out Aurora School in Oakland. It has active, hands-on classrooms, where kids can move about and not be teathered to their seat filling out worksheets. There is a teacher and full-time aid in each class, plus often a parent volunteer, so there is lots of individual attention, and the classroom can be active but not crazy. It appreciates that kids are kids and not little adults, so there is still plenty of time for recess, unlike what I hear about at many other schools. Our 2 daughters (K & 3) though not jumpy boys, have absolutely thrived at this school. It has always struck me as a good school for all kinds of kids including active kids. Aurora Parent

Oct 2007

Re: Lonely 2nd grader is the only African American in her class
Consider Aurora School! We strive for diversity and I think it shows, not only in the colors of the children's faces, but also in the way we teach the kids and parents to approach the multi-faceted world around us. I think that you and your daughter would feel welcome in our community. Long-time parent

Jan 2007

Re: Individualized instruction for advanced student?
Our academically gifted child has thrived at Aurora School. Aurora designs the curriculum to challenge kids of different abilities. Check it out.   Aurora parent

Dec 2006

I would like to get updated information on how parents with children at Aurora or Black Pine Circle are finding things with the (relatively) new Heads of School in place. Thanks

As a long time parent at a Aurora School I can assure you the new Director, Rey Almeida, is committed to the mission and philosophy of Aurora School. It appears to me that Rey's primary focus is the children and their academic success, social well-being, and their health and safety. He has been very supportive of the teachers and ensuring their success as well. He stepped into a challenging situation after the previous Director left who had been there for over 12 years and was much loved by the students and the parents. Rey has taken the challenge and has made some necessary changes in a respectful manner with the understanding that change is difficult. Aurora continues in ''building a foundation for a lifetime'' for the young learners of our community.
- Jeanette

My child is a student at Aurora School and I am very happy with our new Head Rey Alemeida. It was very sad to say goodbye to our former head who we were all very attached to. There is always an adjustment period. Rey came in with new ways of doing things and at first we were all a little panicked. However after several months I am really appreciating his competence and reliability. He is doing many things that had gone undone or were done poorly. I feel the school is being run very well and that Rey is truly someone you can count on to do a good job. He is committed to progressive education which is what Aurora is all about. He is also a very sweet and kind man. I think Rey is the perfect leader for Aurora and I have complete faith that he is going to bring us to new and exciting places.
A Satisfied Parent

January 2006

Our 8 year old son is in second grade at Aurora - he loves it and so do we. What we love most about the school is the emphasis on encouraging children’s natural love of learning. Having an enthusiastic boy who is curious about everything, we looked hard to find a school that would embrace this, and we have found it with Aurora.

Although Aurora is not into testing and rote learning, you don’t have to worry about your kid getting plenty of learning – math, reading, writing – it is just done in innovative and fun ways. Aurora is very strong academically. They also have a terrific integrated arts program. Aurora puts a high premium on emotional and social development and you see it in the friendly, inclusive and socially responsible students. I remember one field trip to a science center where the guide made the comment, “we have hundreds of classes come through here and I can’t remember ever leading such an enjoyable and well-behaved group of kids!” 

April 2005

Re: Kids of GLBT: Where do they go to School?
Well, my son's school -- indeed, his classroom -- has a lot of same-sex parents. In his class of 24 kids, there are 4 who are the children of people in same-sex relationships. I think this is more, on average, than other classrooms at the school, but certainly there are plenty of similar families to feel at home among. He's at Aurora, a place we find very welcoming to all kinds of families. Aurora parent

Feb 2005

Re: Gay Friendly Private Schools
Our child is a kindergardener at Aurora. Aurora has struck me as a very gay-friendly school. Though I am in a straight family, so there's only so much that I can speak to. Four of the 23 kids in her class are in gay families. It is not a closeted place at all. Families are very involved in school and classroom. In kindergarden the kids did a unit on families, and learned that there are all different kinds of families (including two-mom and two-dad families). There are pictures of the kids and their families up on the wall. There is an active diversity committee which has sponsored occassional gay/lesbian family get-togethers. Aurora, in all it does, promotes an ethic of being who you are, of kindness and respect for others, and an appreciation of diversity. The gay-friendly atmoshpere has been great for my child, who takes gay parents for granted, and has never asked why certain kids have two moms or two dads. It feels like there really has been social change! Aurora Mom

Our daughter is at Aurora and we are a two-mommy family. I truly don't know how the atmosphere could be any better for her. Very early in the school year each child completed the sentence ''I like...'' and then drew an image to go with the theme. My daughter's statement was ''I like having two mommies.'' This drawing, along with those of all the other children, was displayed in the hallway when we came for Back To School Night. It brought tears to my eyes. Because of Aurora's philosophy, staff, leadership, and school population, children find an openness that helps them no matter what differences they bring in the door. Yes, there are gay people on staff and yes, there is a subcommittee of the Diversity Committee of us gay parents, but that alone would not make me satisfied -- more than satisfied -- with the school. There is a feature at Aurora called ''Star of the Day.'' My daughter loves it. I think Aurora truly seeks to nurture the star -- the light and radiance -- of every child. lj

Jan 2005

I'm interested in sending my daughter to Aurora School, but have heard very mixed feedback about the school. Would appreciate feedback from families that currently attend or previously attended the school. In particular, I'm wondering about:
- teacher turnover and how that affects classroom experience,
- leadership and direction at the school
- how rigorous the curriculum is,
- the financial stability of the school, and
- future prospects for buying its own space and developing a
middle school.

Thanks! The more info the better

Our daughter is a kindergardener at Aurora and we think it is absolutely fabulous. A few of the reasons we love it, and then I'll try to get to your specific questions.

**Her teachers are superb. The right combination of kindness, warmth, enthusiasm, setting limits, respect for all of the kids, communication with parents, attention to the kids abilities, making learning interesting, a really rich and rigorous curriculum.

**The structure of the school: a lead teacher and full time teaching assistant with about 23 kids/class half K's half 1st graders (and in later years 2nd and 3rd grade, and 4th and 5th grade) allows for lots of individual attention, and can accommodate wide diferences in abilities, and is great for the kids socially (my daughter is friends with both K and 1st graders). Because Aurora welcomes parental involvement, in our daughter's class there is almost always one parent in the classroom and often two. This gives an amazing adult-child ratio. Being in the class for 2 years allows the teachers to really know the kid and their family.

**Allows for differences in abilities. Does assignments that kids can reach at different levels.

**It is a warm, joyous, place which works hard at developing an envrionment and community in which kids feel safe to learn, explore, make mistakes.

**They learn SOOOO much--academically, socially, creatively. This isn't kindergarden like when I was a kid.

OK, your questions. Some of these came up at a Town hall meeting this week, so I'll try to answer them as best I can, given that we're new at the school.

Teacher turnover. There was a spate of turnover due to several pregnancies. Less than average for independent schools. Also, I would think that because there are 2 teachers in a classroom, that there is less disruption for the kids when one teacher leaves. (This is a plus for when teachers are absent. Class continues like normal.)

Leadership. I think the director is outstanding. Has a clear vision of what Aurora is and is not. Very supportive of teachers. I find myself nodding my head in agreement when he speaks.

Rigor of Curriculum: The best way I can speak to this is to explain that my kid is academically way ahead. She has stayed challenged and engaged. For example, since she can read almost anything, the teachers are now focusing on reading comprehension and story elements with her. She LOVES school. She is growing and thriving. We chose Aurora because we felt that they had the best chance of keeping her challenged and engaged without being isolated. This was after looking at many schools including more ''academic'' and competitive schools. Aurora has not disappointed.

Financial Stability. I think it is financially stable but not rich. I know we'd like to be able to offer more financial aid. Aurora is 15 years old, so there is not a large pool of grown-up alumni to tap into for donations.

Future prospects for buying a site and developing a middle school. these are inter-related issues. According to the new strategic plan for 2005-2010, during this time period we will decide if a middle school is desired and viable. (I don't know if this will be resolved earlier or later in that time period. Hopefully more knowledgable people will write in.) We have a fund that we have been developing for the purchase of a site. Don't know the timeline for that. Thrilled with Aurora

My kids attended Aurora for a total of several years, and we were really dissatisfied and disappointed by the end. What were the problems? There was too much staff and teacher turnover, and some of the new teachers seemed in over their heads. The classroom environment for our kids verged on chaos in many of the classes, and the curriculum was not challenging at all. for them. The mixed grade approach didnt work well for our kids when they were in the older grade (say, the 3rd graders in the 2-3 classes) because they just werent challenged much. The after school program was weak-- few real activities. The school just seemed to be drifting- 6 years after promising to get its own space (it rents now from a convent) and start a middle school, there is no plan or committment to do either one (at a time when several other schools did pull it off). We were concerned about the financial stability of the school. Finally, the school demanded too much of us as parents in the way of volunteer time and financial support, and just burned us out.  Good luck in your search-- it's tough but there are many good choices out there. We've been really happy with the schools our kids now attend. Think twice before signing up

My child, and we as parents, are very happy at Aurora. The school's director Bob Whitlow is a visionary leader with lots of experience in progressive education and a great way with the kids. His vision for the school is a community of learners - he stresses diversities of learning styles and keeps up with recent education research, making its more valuable insights available to parents and integrating it into the classroom (although there does seem to be more success with the former than with the latter). The school does a lot to include the parents and other family members, and the other parents I have met are not only engaged in their own kids’ learning, but are supportive of the classroom and community as a whole and open- minded and big-hearted.

My child loves to be there, and is growing both academically and socially. As far as rigor of the curriculum, I share Aurora’s philosophy that hands-on, applied class lessons that work with the interests and needs of the students end up teaching life-long learning skills. Although they certainly cover a lot of academic ground, and at a depth that sometimes surprises me, I guess it depends on what you mean by a rigorous curriculum. For us it has been more important how teachers teach than exactly what they teach. That said, Aurora is a very particular school with a particular pedagogical approach and school culture. It’s a school full of great energy and enthusiasm for learning that does sometimes border on chaotic, and I think different teachers handle that differently. We are happier with the school in general than we are with how the teachers we have this year handle that in particular. But all in all, it’s a good fit for our child. Also, as far as your other concerns go, Lisa Piccione, the admissions director was incredibly helpful in many ways when we were trying to decide. She knows the school very well, is straightforward and great to talk to. Good luck with your decision. an Aurora parent

I am the happy parent of a 4th grader at Aurora School. My daughter has been there since kindergarten and it has been a fabulous place for her to be. She has blossomed there in social, emotional and academic ways. She loves school and continues to be excited about learning.

Regarding your specific questions:

1. There has been some teacher turnover during the time we have been there, as there is at every school. There are also many staff members that have been there five or ten years or more. My daughter has had the same teachers for two years each (two years in k/1 and two years in grades 2 /3) and it has been a wonderful experience. When teachers leave it is usually because of something personal (starting a family, moving, etc.) One benefit to having two classes per grade is that the other lead teacher can mentor a new teacher. Also since every classroom has two teachers (a lead teacher and an assistant teacher) even if one teacher leaves the other one is still there. Actually, I think we have less turnover than many of the private schools in the area. Teachers really like teaching at Aurora.

2. Different parents will always have differing views about leadership at a given school, and all administrations have their strengths and weaknesses. My personal feeling is that the school is in very capable hands and is very well led.

3. Regarding curriculum, I'’m not sure what you mean by '“rigorous'.” Learning is challenging, stimulating and also fun at Aurora. It looks different from what you see in the public schools or at more traditional schools. My daughter is doing really well academically. There is a clear curriculum guide that parents can read. Aurora kids get accepted at most of their first choice middle schools and do really well academically in later years. In fact, middle schools love Aurora kids because they are still excited and interested in school, they aren't afraid to speak up and ask questions and they see teachers as a natural allies.

4. Aurora is secure financially. It is a goal of the school to own it'’s own site (we have a long term lease currently) and fundraising for that is ongoing. The issue of adding a middle school has been talked about for years. It is being looked at as part of the current strategic plan to decide if it will happen or not. While parents looking at schools like the idea of schools that go through middle school I have liked that at Aurora the focus is firmly on elementary school. I think kids benefit from having a school that specializes in and focuses solely on the younger grades. Our students are ready for a bigger pond at 6th grade.

Our experience at Aurora has been fabulous and if you are looking for a school where your child will feel cared about and known, will stay excited about learning and where you as a parent can be very involved, I think you'’ll be happy. It's a really great community! Nancy

You asked your questions at a really good time since we just had our annual '“town hall meeting,'” when we get an update on what is happening with the school and we get to talk about whatever is on our minds.

The question of whether to add a middle school will be decided one way or another this year by the board. While I was looking at schools a middle school attached to an elementary school was important to me. Now that I am at Aurora I am just so happy my son is getting such a great start to his academic career I don'’t mind at all we'’ll need to look again years down the road. From what I have observed the kids like getting a chance to try their wings in a new environment and they all seem to do really well in whatever schools they have chosen.

The school has a stable home and we just renegotiated our lease. At the same time Aurora does want to own it'’s own building and we are raising money for that. We just hired a new development director who is amazing and I have complete faith she will help us reach our goal.

The administration at Aurora is amazing. As a parent you will be able to have extraordinary access to teachers and other staff people. When I compare notes with friends I realize how unusual it is to be able to talk with teachers whenever you need to. We can grab teachers in the morning or afternoon, we can call, we can email. That is along with our twice yearly individual meetings with our teachers. The other staff are equally accessible and our director'’s door is always open. I feel very free to bring up whatever is on my mind and I feel really listened to. That is one of the things that makes Aurora special, the respectful way children and parents are listened to and taken seriously. I've never seen anything like it.

Academically, Aurora'’s curriculum is creative, innovative and I think quite '“rigorous'” but not in a traditional way. Aurora does not administer standardized tests and you won'’t find rote memorization. It is arts rich (music, art and drama being well integrated into classrooms) and very hands on. For example, children in kindergarten do a lot with patterns to introduce them to math. Rather than just memorize equations they learn the underlying concepts of math and how it works. And key to this is that it is fun and interesting. I love how they teach science too. Our teachers are fabulous - warm and wonderful and engaging. My son cries if he misses a day of school.

It is a great place to go to school. Hope that answers your questions. Call our admissions director Lisa Piccione if you need more info. Susan

My son is a 3rd grader at Aurora who started there as a 1st grader after we switched him from a K year at a Montclair public school. It was a seamless transition and he loves the place. He never came back from a K day saying, ''I had a great day!'' but he continually volunteers that type of comment at the end of a day since he's been at Aurora. To me, that says alot. If kids can have fun while learning, you know they're gonna really get it. I know the entire staff (some better than others) due to my volunteer efforts, both in the classroom and in other areas. Generally speaking, I've been very happy with Aurora, especially insofar as the fit for my son. I'll try to address each of your concerns:

Staff turnover- There has been what seems like a somewhat more than usual amount of staff turnover, but some of it has been circumstances beyond their control (major illness; spouse relocating out of the area, etc). There was 1 teacher last year who came from a pub sch and left at the end of the yr, realizing this wasn't a good fit, but she was right -- it wasn't a good fit and the replacement has been very good from all reports I'm aware of. Since the kids are with the same 2 teachers for 2 years, turnover will have some impact on the class, but overall I don't think it's been a huge issue. In the eg I just mentioned, the ''bad'' part was the struggles that year with a teacher who couldn't adjust to a nonpublic school way of doing things. Parents, and I believe kids, are much happier now that there is a better fit.

Leadership- In my opinion (of course) the director of the school is a great educator and has wonderful ideas about the ''right ways'' to help kids learn. He is well-liked by the kids and (I think) the staff. He is a competent administrator, but, I do believe he also has a hard time sometimes being tough when he ought to be. I have stayed out of Board politics for the most part thus far, but am also aware the the Bd composition now is better than just a year ago.

Curriculum- Generally, I have found the staff to be very good teachers who also care tremendously about the kids and their work. They work very hard and come up with what seems like an interesting (for the kids), well-integrated curriculum. When I first came to the schoool a few yrs ago, I'd heard about some previous complaints that the 4-5 classes weren't rigorous enough, but they seem to have done a lot of work on that and I haven't heard much (negative) since. Their 5th graders certainly get into a wide range of middle schools -- Julia Morgan, Redwood Day, St Paul's, Black Pine Circle. So they can't be doing it too badly. I firmly believe that what they teach is not nearly so important as that they teach how to learn, and that they instill a love of learning in these kids, and it seems they do that well.

Financial stability and future prospects- I can't profess to be completely in the know here. Many private schools have seen a bit of declining enrollment, including Aurora. I personally think some of that has to do with their marketing techniques. I think they're fairly stable right now, but esp if they continue with plans for a middle school, it will get tougher. Related to that, I am not sure how far along they are in the search and I don't know all the details of what a middle school would ''look'' like in terms of curriculum (and Bob would hate me for saying this), but I am not sure I'd send my son (or esp) daughter there for middle school anyway. My first choice for middle school for a girl would be Julia Morgan (I have my daughter there now and we both love it), and if there were a male counterpart, that's where I'd put my son. I think Aurora's philosophy and curriculum is great for elementary school and I am not at all sure it's the best thing for middle school. By then, you do want less touchie feelie, more rigor, more clarity about what the world is really like...if that's the kind of middle school they would develop, then that'd be great, but it would be at least a partial divergence from their current curriculum/philosophy. Tough to say, but the other thing to consider is that 8 years in one spot for you might be easier, but it might not be the best thing for your child anyway. Sometimes, esp at that juncture, a change is good.

Good luck in your decision. Overall, I think it's a great place for a young child. nas

Dec 2003

Can anyone tell me about diversity at Aurora? I went to their open house and really liked the creative atmosphere there. It seemed a great match for our family, except for one thing: aside from the parent giving the diversity presentation and two classroom aides, everyone in the room - - prospective parents and faculty -- was white. While I believe that ''diversity'' is integrated into the curriculum, you need a diversity of people to be truly diverse. We are a white family, but we live in multicultural Oakland and I want true diversity that to be part of my child's educational experience. Can anyone tell me about the school's recruitment efforts or give me any statistics about racial diversity at the school? nelly

This is in response to the question asked regarding diversity at Aurora School. We have two kids at Aurora (1st and 4th grade), we are a multiracial family and participate on the Aurora School Diversity Committee.

When we looked at schools, what drew us to Aurora was the educational philosophy, sense of community, lack of pretense, and the organic approach to issues of diversity that we felt Aurora embodied. We have been at the school for 5 years and are very pleased on all these counts and more.

Looking at diversity is a complex issue. Aurora strives to not only maintain, but increase the diversity of both staff and students. The current population is quite diverse. There is an awareness at Aurora that people come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, family structures, etc., and that is acknowledged and honored. With that established, there is a welcoming of diversity not just of color, but of outlook as well.

Each year staff development focuses on one or two topics. This year the Lead Teachers' focus is on mathematics and Race is the focus for the whole staff's professional development topic.

The entire staff read three books over the summer, ''White Teacher,'' by Vivian Gussin Paley and ''Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?'' And ''Other Conversations About Race,'' by Beverly Daniel Tatum. The staff is using Tatum?s book as the backbone of their study and staff discussions. It will also be used as a catalyst for a community parent ed. discussion sponsored by the Diversity Committee this January.

Every year Aurora sponsors a number of staff members, parents, and Board members to attend a fabulous workshop titled ''Beyond Diversity,'' which is presented by Glen Singleton. I was able to attend the workshop last year and highly recommend it. It is inspiring, eye opening, personally challenging, and very practical.

There is a real and active effort at Aurora to move beyond what has often been referred to as the ''tourist approach'' to Diversity. Different perspectives are presented through story books, history books, class discusiions and activities. Aurora families are invited to share their family traditions as well.

The Director of the school is a white male who uses a wheelchair. He has two daughters, one biological and one adopted who is part Latina. This gives him a very personal perspective on diversity, which informs the school. Additionally, his position before coming to Aurora was in an equity and education program at the Lawrence Hall of Science.

Here are some specific statistics:

Staff Diversity:
1 African American
1 French African
1 Chinese American
1 Mexican American
1 Chilean
2 Lesbians
5 Bi racial families
2 adoptive parents 
14 Caucasian

Families of Color in our community:
10% African American
7% Asian
3% Hispanic
3% Middle Eastern
62% Caucasian
6% European
9% Bi racial families 

Hope this was helpful in answering your question. 

Aurora Mom

Someone asked about diversity at Aurora School. I'’m a parent and board member at Aurora. But this letter is not an '“official' letter from the school rather it is my own impressions of the school as a parent, an African-American and the father of two wonderful and unique children.

I believe the original question was raised by someone who was at the information night and who saw me give a presentation at Aurora School. The faculty and staff (plus me) made presentations about the school to the parents who came to information night.

Of the people giving presentations (all faculty and staff save myself), there were: two African-American, one French- African, two Latinas, one Asian-American and the director of the school who is in a wheelchair.

'“Hidden' diversity of the staff and faculty includes 5 bi- racial families, two adoptive families, and two lesbians.

Regarding the students, the '“diversity'” count is as follows:

10% African American
7% Asian American
3% Hispanic American
3% Middle Eastern
62% European American
6% European
9% Multi- or bi-racial families

(By European, without a hyphen, I mean born in Europe, same for Middle Eastern. In our family we call 'white'” Americans, European-Americans.)

Hope this helps give a good picture of the diversity of Aurora.

On a side note, I believe that the writer called the assistant teachers '“class room aides'”, which they are not, they are teachers.

There of course are different, less visible varieties of diversity, including learning styles and family structures etc. What Aurora has is a sensitivity to the needs of children who ultimately are all unique and diverse no matter what background. At Aurora diversity is neither a tourist excursion nor an examination of the '“Other'”. Rather, at Aurora Diversity is integral to the curriculum. Diversity is a vital part of the children's lives and learning, where families are encouraged to share their traditions in the school(and do!). Diversity is lighting Kwanzaa candles and making latke's in the classroom.

Finally as a member of the Board of the school, I can say that the school actively seeks diverse families and employees.


November 2003

Aurora School, a diverse community honoring the heart, mind and imagination of every learner, is a K-5 elementary school located in Oakland. Please call Lisa Piccione if you would like to schedule a tour of Aurora School. Lisa Piccione 

I have been really happy with Aurora School in Oakland. There are so many things I love about the school...from the fabulous teachers to the wonderful sense of community to their philosophy of education. Children are treated like a whole person at Aurora. The school recognizes that social skills and how a child feels about school effects their ability to learn. So they listen to the children and acknowledge them and treat them with a great deal of respect. They have a terrific conflict resolution program called Talk It Out which is used daily in the classroom and on the playground. I really notice how nice the kids are to each other here. I see much more kindness on a daily basis than I have noticed in other places.

Because of how they treat students - as active and motivated learners - the classroom vibrates with the enthusiasm and interest of the students. Teachers are just fabulous. They are so enthusiastic and work so hard to make things interesting. I am amazed at how much they put into the classroom, the dedication they demonstrate is extraordinary. There is a teacher and aide in every classroom and lots of terrific ''specialists''. The school excels at pulling together different topics into an integrated whole. A class project may include math, science, and english all at the same time. The quality of the academics is very good.

Communication is big at Aurora and as a parent you will never feel shut out. Teachers are accessible by phone, email and in person. The Director of the school met with us personally before school even began. Parents volunteer in every aspect of the school. I volunteer in the classroom and love it.

There are a lot of wonderful schools out there...I think what makes Aurora special is it's wonderful atmosphere. Children thrive here and leave the school full of confidence, enthusiasm and a true love of learning.


Re: School for HIGHLY spirited child (September 2002)
While I don't think my son fits all the characteristics of being spirited he is very active and outgoing, and is thriving at Aurora School (he is now in 1st grade). The program is developmental and doesn't require as much sitting still and being quiet as some more academic or structured kindergartens. At the same time students are expected to respect each other and the teachers, be good listeners, and generally create a kind community for learning. The program also has wonderful art, music, movement and spanish. I would definitely check it out and see if you think it would be a good fit for your child. Leah