Orinda Academy

Community Subscriber

Orinda, CA

Private School
Language(s): 
English
Grades: 
8-12
Capacity: 
120 students
Website: http://www.orindaacademy.org
Email: admission [at] orindaacademy.orgPhone: (925) 254-7553
Address: 
19 Altarinda Road, Orinda, CA 94563
Editors' Notes: 
  • Orinda Academy was previously known as North Bay Orinda School

Orinda Academy is a small, co-ed private school that serves grades 8-12. Orinda Academy provides personal attention, a structured, supportive setting, and small class sizes.  Our mission is to provide a college preparatory education to empower each student to reach his or her full potential as a successful, confident, self-reliant individual, including those smart, creative students with learning differences.  We offer a college prep curriculum committed to providing students with academic growth, ambitious and advanced classes, and competitive interscholastic athletics.

Parent Q&A

  • Orinda Academy or Bentley for teen with ADHD

    (5 replies)

    We are considering both Orinda Academy and Bentley for our son. He is very intelligent, sweet, and a super hard-worker. He has ADHD and this makes homework take twice as long as it would for the average kid. He also struggles with his organizational skills and executive functioning skills. He does well academically in a middle school with very little homework, but we are concerned about the increased demands/complexity of high school.

    OA seems like it would be great for him, wondering if it would be academically challenging enough? It seems like the students are doing their individual work, not sure if that means they might not be challenged enough by the teachers or fellow students?

    Bentley seems to also offer the small class sizes and academic challenge, but I’m wondering how much they can accommodate learning differences and ADHD and whether they work explicitly on organizational skills and executive functioning.

    Also wondering about whether drugs/delinquency a problem at either school? How is the social scene?

    Any advice appreciated !

    I can’t really speak to how your son might do at Bentley, but my daughter attends Orinda Academy (OA), and she has some of the same issues as your son (hard-working and very bright but struggles with executive functioning and organizing). She’s been very happy there and is currently a senior, waiting to hear back from colleges.

    We considered several other schools in the area similar to Bentley in some ways, as well as our local public school (too chaotic, a lot of pressure to smoke pot at school). Ultimately, we decided that even though our daughter could handle the rigors of other private schools in the area in terms of “smarts,” we wanted her to have both a college prep education and a real life in high school. We were concerned that she’d be up until 12am (and later) week nights doing homework—something we’d witnessed in friends’ children who, like my daughter, are highly motivated but who process content at a different pace. I’m a teacher, and I know that sometimes schools develop a culture around competitiveness even when the school itself is trying to encourage a healthy balance, and Bay Area private schools are no exception. This doesn’t seem to be the case at OA: I see my daughter work hard, but there also seems to be a general sense of camaraderie in her class. She is able to complete a reasonable amount of homework in the supervised study hall—though of course she does bring some work home, and she often stays an extra period at the end of the day to work individually or with friends. Long-term projects have seemed both challenging and designed to teach students how to break work down into doable steps, which is really, really important for our daughter given her issues with executive functioning. As she’s matured and had the opportunity to tackle multi-step academic processes without getting stressed out, I’ve seen her confidence build and she’s got a kind of “I can do this” attitude that’s extending beyond school (phew!)

    Our daughter seems appropriately challenged at Orinda Academy but still has time to spend with the rest of the family, with friends on weekends and to pursue her true passion, music. She has made good friends at school and just completed the college application process without going nuts, thanks to a really good college counselor at OA (who kept in touch with us behind the scenes so we wouldn’t go nuts!) Drugs and delinquency have not been a problem at OA that we’re aware of. It’s a small, caring community and the administration and teachers seem to be very on top of things.

    This balanced experience is exactly what we wanted for our daughter’s high school years: and when she considered attending a somewhat larger school where academic competition was more a part of the school culture, the decision was a pretty easy one for her. She knew that she didn’t want to push so hard in high school that she’d already be burned out by the time she got to college--and with her learning differences, that would have been a real possibility.

    Best of luck to you in whatever you decide…

    Our daughter graduated from Orinda Academy in 2012, and four years later has her Psychology degree and continuing in the healthcare field.  She's dyslexic and has always had to work so hard to succeed, but has.  No place is perfect for our kids with learning differences but we liked Orinda Academy and are glad we made that choice.  There was a mix of teachers but most are terrific, willing to challenge each student to a higher level and work with each student and family 1/1 where needed.  Roger made a big difference when he came to the school.  

    Hi there.  Our son began Orinda Academy in the 8th grade, and is currently in the 9th grade.  Like your son, he is intelligent and has always been academically successful.  He also has had executive functioning challenges, slightly different than you describe, but for certain projects he really needs a lot of help from us or his teachers to "scaffold" the assignment, or to reassure him that he's completing an open-ended challenge in the "right" way.  Orinda Academy gets an A+ for accommodation. The school recognizes (actually, not just in their marketing materials) that different kids learn in different ways, and that teachers need to provide different learning activities or timelines for each kid.  The school uses technology a great deal, so it is always easy for kids and parents to find out what the assignments are, when they are due, and how the student is progressing.  It is also very easy to reach and communicate with the teachers and the administration.  The class sizes are indeed small, and although we wish for a slightly larger group, there are definite benefits to the amount of flexibility and individual attention that the teachers can give each child.  The school offers a class on study skills which all 9th graders take.  The students are generally warm and inclusive, and in our experience there is no problem at the school with drugs or delinquency.  Our son may "max out" in certain subject areas before he reaches 12th grade, but we anticipate that the school will once again be flexible and accommodating in meeting his needs, though we have not yet worked out the details of this.  A useful bit of advice I got long ago: Visit both schools and look for a kid who resembles the profile of your kid.  How do the kids and teachers respond to that kid?  Is s/he thriving?  You will know intuitively whether your kid can find "his people" at that school. 

    I have a son attending Orinda Academy who is now a junior. We've been there since middle school and he has thrived in every way. Orinda Academy is a great school for learning difference kids as they are not the "different" kids, they just learn differently. One of the things I love about the school is that it meets the student where they are academically and challenges them at their level. For example the math classes have multiple grades of students, depending on their skill level and need to be challenged. Orinda Academy challenges the students academically, while supporting them to be successful with that challenge. 

    For ninth graders, there is a study skills class which is a great tool for helping kids with executive functioning struggles. They also have open periods to work on homework at school with teacher support. Orinda Academy has strict policies about behavior/drugs/alcohol. The kids there are warm and welcoming to new students and they embrace friendships between grade levels.

    You can tell we've had a great experience here! I'm happy to email or chat with you about our experiences here. Just pm me!

    Laura

    My son sounds very much like your son;  very intelligient, sweet and a super hard worker.  Now an 11th grader, he thrives at Sterne School in San Francisco.  Any inconvenience due to the school being in San Francisco is worth the effort to get there.  Concerns regarding academic challenge will be taken care of with the tailored curriculum.  They provide opportunities for the kids to perform community service which helps on the college applications.  They also look out for his non-academic future with the Bridges program. That program worked with my son to land a job at the Exploratorium.  His counselor is always available if any issues come up.  He is earning his own money and is so fun to watch as he matures before my eyes.  So my advice is to check out Sterne School.

    New replies are no longer being accepted.
  • Orinda Academy for shy ADHD boy?

    (4 replies)

    Hi Fellow Parents,

    My son is currently in 7th grade, has ADHD with auditory disorder and difficulty with long term memory.  He is shy & a bit immature & doesn't engage in sports.  He is currently in public school & succeeds in the resource classroom since it is 1:7 teacher/student ratio.  But his other classrooms are too big and he can't remember the instructions and gets easily distracted with all the students. He also struggles with the common core instruction.    I am looking for a small private middle or high school that has small class sizes but that is big enough to give him a high school experience and have a balance of preparing him to get admitted into a 4 year college.  I have looked into schools that have LDs or kids with social delays and I am wondering if that is the right fit for him.  I want him to have a variety of choices for friends but not too big that he feels lost.  I am looking into Orinda Academy and I am wondering if anyone has any experience with the school and can provide feedback?  Any other suggestions?  Any school from Pleasanton up Hwy 680-Hwy 24 to Orinda would work. 

    Thank you for your help & feedback!

    My daughter switched to Orinda Academy as an 8th grader.  She was enrolled in a small private middle school but after discovering her LD status we found it too dogmatic/inflexible. She's a junior now and has really benefited from the support at OA. She's better able now to organize her own assignments/meet deadlines and is excited to start the college search process. Socially, the kids are pretty open and there's a good balance of shy and extroverted students. Extracurricular activities are available and kids can implement their own ideas such as starting a new club or promoting a charity drive for domestic abuse victims which my daughter thought of last year.  

    I'm happy to provide more details if you'd like more info.

    We go to Orinda Academy and love it. My son has been there since sixth grade (now 8-12), is a sophomore now and has really flourished. He came in with ADD and Sensory Processing disorder so I can relate to the large classroom problem. He still has his organizational struggles and the small, supportive environment has helped him find tools to get his work done. He went from being internally focused to a confident, friendly student, finding his group of friends. I am happy to email or chat with you about our experience and I will be at the open house on April 19th. Let me know if I can be helpful.

    My son has many of the same issues. He started at Orinda Academy as a freshman and is now a senior. I wish I had started him in eighth grade. The school has been perfect for him. He hated the public schools as did I. He liked OA at first sight, and has loved going to it always. He's a different kid. He gets the support he needs there. I don't have to fight the school every step of the way, although I do keep on top of them. The school responds quickly to his needs. The classes are small, from 3-9 kids. The teachers know him inside out. He got into all of the colleges he applied to and got scholarships at all of them. For a variety of reasons, he is taking a gap year and has deferred his acceptances.

    On the social level, he finally has a close set of friends that have lasted; that never happened before. I haven't heard of any bullying and am sure it would be shut down quickly. Yes it's a tiny school and doesn't offer as many opportunities, socially or academically, as a public school. We were very worried about that, but on the whole it has not been an issue.  I'm not sure how much my son would have taken part in the larger social offerings or sports at a large school anyway. The school listened to us about course variety and has tried new approaches this year to address this; it worked for an extra class for my son.

    I would recommend the school. And they do have financial aid for those qualifying. They have an open house coming up mid April.

    Feel free to contact me if you want.

    I think Orinda might be a good fit; small class sizes, lots of structure and support; full-time learning specialist and yet many of the same activities of larger schools (dances, prom, electives). 

    New replies are no longer being accepted.
  • Bayhill High School vs. Orinda Academy vs. Millenium High School

    (3 replies)

    Hello,

    Wondering if anyone has experience/exposure to these schools. I'm interested in how they are alike, different and what type of student you'd find at each of these schools? Ie: which is more academically challenging? Which offers a more traditional high school experience? Which has more kids with behavioral problems? I have a child with an IEP who struggles academically and has no behavioral problems. He needs lots of academic support but wants to play sports, go to dances and have a 'normal' high school experience. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thank you!

    I completely agree with the response about Orinda Academy. Our son is a senior there with all sorts of learning issues. He has had a productive and uplifting high school experience leading to a great self esteem. 

    Orinda Academy sounds like a good school for your son! I am a current parent of a 10th grader at Orinda Academy. My son has ADD, including organizational issues, and has thrived there, gaining social confidence as well as meeting his potential. The small class sizes enable the teachers to really get to know the students and address their learning needs. We have a Learning Support Coordinator that digests your students needs into a Learning Plan for all the teachers to utilize for accommodations. Overall, it has been an amazing experience for my son with a strong community feeling, social and scholastic support. The school does offer sports, has dances/prom as well as student council, educational adventure trips near and far, and various lunchtime clubs. Orinda Academy challenges kids to work towards their potential, whether that is college bound or not, all is embraced. I'm happy to message or chat with you about our experience. We also have an Open House coming up Sunday, Dec 4th from 1-4pm.

    I think Bayhill could be a great fit for your son. My son with adhd & dyslexia had a great experience there. He is now in college and I don't think he would have had that option without his years at Bayhill. The teachers are incredibly devoted and become friends, mentors & cheerleaders for the students. The academic supports are built into each class. They have dances, proms, sports teams, student council, etc. to give the kids that high school experience (albeit in a small school environment). The administration seemed to work hard on making sure students were a fit for the environment and dealt quickly with any disruptive behavior. Most of the kids there were fairly "mainstream", but needed the extra academic support & small class sizes to succeed. We also looked at Orinda Academy and at the time felt it didn't offer the level of academic support my son needed. 

    Grateful Bayhill Parent Alum

    New replies are no longer being accepted.

Parent Reviews

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Our son began Orinda Academy in the 8th grade and is currently in the 9th grade.  Like your son, he is academically successful, has had executive functioning challenges, and may or may not respond fully to the interview process.  Classes at OA are typically small groups of kids and certain classes are offered in a supervised, online process.  The kids tend to be generally warm and inclusive, and the faculty seem to genuinely care about each student, so that feeling of "getting lost" does not apply here.  We'd encourage you to visit the school and see whether you imagine that your child would do well there.  We recommend it highly.  

I second Orinda Academy as a great option! Small classes sizes and a safe social environment for an introvert. A great place for smart kids with executive functioning challenges. My son has gone here since middle school and is now a thriving junior. I can't recommend it enough. Please pm me if you want to chat about it.

Also there is an open house this Saturday, December 9th from 1-4pm. Be sure to go for the whole thing as they have a program and a tour.

Laura

Have you explored Orinda Academy?  They have an amazing program for students who need executive functioning support (as well as for other learning differences).  There are coding electives on their blended learning platform and opportunities for coding/steam during club times (3d printing, coding, game design). They do a lot of project based learning which may be more interesting for your child. Small class sizes and individualized attention.

We go to Orinda Academy and the school is designed to help kids like yours. My son has flourished there. Learning differences and executive function challenges are supported in the classrooms regularly. There is an open house this Sunday with the program starting at 1pm followed by a tour. I’ll be there or if you have questions you could pm me. We get a lot of Berkeley and Oakland families.

My son goes to Orinda Academy which has been an amazing experience for him. The small school environment is helpful for low stress transitions and no one slips through the cracks. OA is grades 8-12, however I wanted to share that a lot of our students come from Raskob. I don't have personal experience, but I've heard many good things about it for kids like ours.

You should definitely look at Orinda Academy! It has a very welcoming atmosphere and has an international student population so I'm sure she'd feel comfortable there. There is a big emphasis on acceptance and embracing differences PLUS it has a college prep curriculum and small class sizes.

Orinda Academy has grade 8 and focuses on students with executive functioning issues, slow processing, and mild-moderate learning differences.  It's a great school with a lot of built in structure to the day and 8:1 student teacher ratio, and learning support coordinator.  You can email me with more questions.

My son has attended Orinda Academy since middle school and is now finishing his sophomore year. The school personality is very warm and engaging with students becoming friends across grades. The safe social environment enables the kids to focus on their schoolwork, with the support of their teachers, advisor and the learning support coordinator. No one slips under the radar or through the cracks. Learning differences are common at Orinda Academy and the small, supportive environment helps with giving students tools so that they may grow and achieve on their own. My son has flourished here and has gone from a reclusive, introspective boy into a kind, social, confidant and scholastically engaged young man.  

We go to Orinda Academy and the small environment helps the students feel safe socially while also accommodating different levels of learning, including above grade level. We go there now and my son has flourished. There is an open house coming up April 19th. I'll be there or you can message me if you'd like. 

We go to Orinda Academy. My son had an IEP in elementary for ADD and Sensory issues. He has flourished in the small safe environment at Orinda Academy. They have a Learning Support Coordinator that works with the teachers to support your student's needs. Missing homework emails and regular communication from teachers is a plus. The school is 8-12th grades and they are having an open house April 19th. I'll be there or you can message me any questions you may have. Also financial aid is available. 

RE: Struggling 10th grader ()

We have a 10th grader at Orinda Academy and he has flourished there. They offer a variety of ways to make sure your student is up to date such as missing work emails, individual learning plans, teachers available in the study hall and office hours. It is a super supportive school. They do offer financial aid so don't let the tuition keep you from checking it out. We have an open house coming up April 19th and I will be there. Please feel free to message me if you have any questions. 

We have a son at Orinda Academy and it has been a super welcoming community for him. I have seen shy kids come to the back to school day BBQ, barely able to leave the car and feeling comfortable the first week. The school is very aware if kids are socially shy and they work to make them feel safe, comfortable and included. As freshmen, there is a buddy system that pairs an older student with a new student to show them the ropes. There is a fall retreat where teachers and students build community and have lots of fun. The students at Orinda Academy are super welcoming, mixing grades with friendships and a place for everyone. My son has gone from a reclusive quiet kid to confident and saying hello to all teachers and students by name.

If you want to talk or message me for more questions I'm happy to answer! 

Hi there,

I'm a parent at Orinda Academy. My son has learning differences and it has been an amazing experience for him. Starting with a socially safe environment, the students are able to blossom academically. Small class sizes, individualized support and strong communication with teachers go a long way. OA attracts students from both sides of the tunnel with easy access to BART which many students use. They have many lunchtime clubs, which any student can start or join. The curriculum is college prep with the intention of meeting each student where they are and giving them the tools to be successful past high school into college, or whatever they choose to do. The school serves learning difference kids, anxiety, dyslexia, dysgraphia, also has a small international population and kids without learning differences. The teachers are committed and build relationships with the students.

My son has blossomed here into a confident student. He has many friends and also gets together with his friends outside of school. 

There is an open house December 4th from 1-4pm at the school. A great way to learn more about the school as well as meet parents and hear the student panel answer questions.

Please message me if I can answer any more questions.

What grade is your child? We go to Orinda Academy which is grades 8-12 with a safe social environment creating space for students to thrive.  Small class sizes, individualized attention, and a supportive learning model helps kids to bridge the achievement gap. It's been transformative for our son. Feel free to message me for questions.

I  forgot two wonderful services that Orinda academy provides. If homework is not turned in, then the student immediately goes on missing homework list.  An email goes out that same afternoon  to the student, the parents, the counselor and the dean of students notifying them that homework is missing and s/he must report to study hall during all the free periods the next day. ( there's typically at least one free period  each day.) The students stays on missing work and must go to study hall every day until the homework is turned in. It keeps the student completely  current and takes the onus off the parents. The school also sends out a progress report with comments from each teacher every two weeks. 

Please check out Orinda Academy. Your son sounds like mine. Mine also has learning differences. He struggled mightily through public middle school and started at OA as a freshman. He was a different kid almost immediately. Not that his LD and ADD problems went away, but his self esteem and view of school became dramatically better. He loves the small classes and actually enjoys going to school. On the LD and executive functioning, he still needed and needs tutoring. He is now a senior. He never would have made it through the public school. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Oct 2013

Re: Private high school for disorganized smart kid
Do visit Orinda Academy in Orinda and talk with them. Spend a day visiting as well. Sounds far but it's very near the BART station in Orinda and many students take BART there. The faculty and staff are great, small classes and a very good and structured environment. parent of Orinda Grad


Dec 2012

My son attends the Orinda Academy. He transferred to Orinda Academy from a public high school. Orinda Academy is a small school which takes great care in the education of its students. My son is dyslexic and dysgraphic and Orinda Academy has done everything to accommodate his needs and also to teach him how to use the technology available to address his issues with reading and writing. I have found that everyone at the school from the head of the school Ron Graydon to all of the teachers to be very accessible and to do their best to meet the needs of the individual students. The school has a college preparatory curriculum and strict accountability for work to be completed. I am confident that my son will be well prepared to attend college following graduation from Orinda Academy. I would suggest to any parent whose son or daughter may benefit from a smaller school to carefully look at Orinda Academy. The other convenient aspect of Orinda Academy is that it is close to the Orinda Bart station. My son took Bart to and from OA and it worked out very well for everyone. OA parent


Oct 2012

We are considering Orinda Acadamy for high school (9-12) for our son. On the academic side it appears to be just what he needs. I've read the past reviews and they address that well. (he has mild LD, but is smart and engaging.) It's the social side that I would love to hear about. The current 9th and 11th grades have 17 kids each, the other 2 grades have 24 each, if I remember this correctly. What are the kids like there? My son is very open to kids, but is a bit immature and doesn't read social cues well. He always seems to make new friends but doesn't sustain them. Are there enough kids at the school that he will find somebody? Are there any cliques, possible even in a small school? What happens when kids have a falling out? What about dating? If you don't mind, I would love to talk directly with some OA parents. Thanks linda


My son graduated from Orinda Academy recently, and your description of your son and his social skills sound a lot like my son when he entered OA. The social scene at OA was very nice for him. The majority of kids are very open and sweet and supportive of one another, and I didn't see evidence of cliques. He had had trouble making friends in middle school, and made some good friends at OA. Romantic relationships can be difficult because the school is so small that when you break up, you can't avoid the other person. This caused some anguish. On the whole, though, I thought that the supportive social environment was one of the best things about OA. Anon


Dec 2011

Does anyone have current information about Orinda Academy. We are considering it for our son. The census seems to be down, but that could be due to the economy. Or it may be due to something else that I am unaware of. I want a school that will give him interesting peers and a solid education. I am attracted to the hands on approach by the teachers etc. Any comments are appreciated. Thanks Lamorinda Mom


Orinda Academy has been a great school for our daughter - she's been there for three years now. The teachers are very good, really work with each kid who wants/needs help and are extremely good on feedback. They do a progress report for every student every 2-3 weeks that gives concrete suggestions and updates that's been really helpful for our daughter who can see clearly where she's doing well and where she needs to focus more. They have a number of clubs, social get togethers and a good variety of off campus activities including an ''Educational Adventures Week'' in the spring with 6-8 choices for the week ranging from travel out of the country, Plays in Ashland, Oregon, community service, photography, etc. Compared to other small schools we've also found the best balance of creative choices- art, drama, dance, music. I think enrollment for many smaller schools who don't want to grow into a large private school is hard given the economy. We think the school is a great choice. Clearly there's not the social environment of a big campus but that's also a plus for many kids who need a kinder environment where they aren't lost crowd. Happy to be at Orinda Academy


Hello. I have a senior at Orinda Academy. He started the summer before 9th grade. We are very very grateful for this school. Our son is a sweet, gentle, smart kid with learning differences. He has always been young for his age and naive about other kids, their motivations, etc. We had him in a variety of private and parochial schools trying to address his learning needs, but when bullying became the issue, he became a home schooled kid. After three years of that, he was hungry for social interaction and wanted to go to high school; he ended up at Orinda Academy. The teachers have been amazingly warm, thoughtful, and not least, good teachers. The curriculum has kept him challenged and he has done well. With many schools in our area, the comfort of the student is entirely lost in the name of competition and fierce academics. I am quite confident that our son has gotten a good education and more importantly, his interest in learning and his confidence in his ability have all improved. When social problems have arisen, and they have been few, the school responded appropriately and speedily. Although the tuition is high, it is sadly what it takes to educate a child in a private system. What is most fortunate about Orinda Academy is that we got all the benefits that we would expect in a private system; good academics, excellent individual support, happy and inclusive community, and an accepting place for a sweet, happy but maybe not mainstream boy. Good luck with your school search. r.


Orinda Academy is an incredible school. In fact, we are so grateful to the school that we are continuing to make an annual donation even after our son has left the school. (This is also why I'm motivated to write in here. I have absolutely no investment in providing this info other than that I want other kids to benefit the way my son did.) Orinda Academy provides a lovely, nurturing environment, and the class sizes are intentionally small. Because of the small size of the school, kids get a lot of interaction right through the grades - which provides a wonderful sense of freedom and flexibility. Our son is very smart, but he was an expert at sliding under the radar and getting straight back to his computer. OA has a level of structure that makes this behavior noted and reported - without at all coming across as a 'police state.' I'd send your kid there - he'd be lucky to be in this wonderful community. PK


We sent our son to Orinda Academy for 9th grade because his behavior in 8th grade at King MS led us to believe that he did not have the self control, confidence nor interest in anything besides getting high to able to make it at Berkeley High. Presently, he is in a therapeutic boarding school in Montana. We are learning about his experiences at OA as he ''discloses'' in his current program. At OA, he regularly embezzled funds from his cafeteria fund by convincing the cashier that he needed the cash back to get home on BART and convincing us he was starving so we replenished his account weekly. He used that money to buy drugs. We also learned that he left school nearly every day after lunch. The school never called us and, in fact, he got his best grades in those afternoon classes. (At the same time, the teaching faculty was fantastic and went out of their way to meet with us and try to help him pull it together.) My beef is with the structure of the school that promises a better eye on kids than you get at a larger school, but actually allowed our child to get away with a great deal of truancy (at least BUSD leaves a phone message). His drug problems became worse and we were fearful that his behaviors were leading to juvenile hall or death, so we resorted to sending him away. He is now doing well, but I can't help but wonder what might have happened had he experienced 9th grade elsewhere. been there


Orinda Academy was a wonderful school for our son, an intelligent young person with significant learning disabilities and an extremely asymmetric academic profile. Prior to attending Orinda Academy, he was often teased and bullied by his peers, and generally overlooked or dismissed by teachers, as not intelligent until the spring of the academic year, if at all. Ernest and likable enough, he nevertheless had a great deal of trouble completing his homework, keeping track of his possessions, and following directions. Throughout elementary school, I worried about his future. He attended OA from the seventh grade throughout high school.

He's now a very successful junior in college, managing his coursework at two campuses of a consortium of schools, TA-ing two courses, largely supporting himself with a campus job he loves and some freelance projects. He's identified, applied for, and completed prestigious internships in different cities each summer, while living on his own, and will do so again next summer.

Orinda Academy helped our son grow up, respecting him and us, his parents, while assisting him to use his strengths to manage his weaknesses and become a competent, confident, independent and realistic adult. He is still in touch with several of his teachers from the school, occasionally meets one for lunch when in town, and drops in to visit the school once a year. Sure, there were some bumps along the way, but it was overall a wonderful high school for someone like him. Grateful OA Parent


March 2011

Re: Choosing a high school for our daughter
If you're looking for a small school environment, good teacher support and communication, confidence building for students and really important school feedback for both students and parents Orinda Academy is a good choice. You should visit and talk with students and faculty. It's a few blocks from BART in Orinda so is good for many students from Oakland/Berkeley who take Bart. We've especially appreciated, as parents, a progress update every 2-3 weeks that each student gets. It's really helped our daughter stay focused and those that are falling behind know quickly. The report is emailed to parents as well. It's been good for building our daughter's confidence in many ways. Thanks... Orinda Academy Parent


Feb 2011

We are beginning to think about high schools for one of our children who has some learning differences, primarily in executive function, as well as some social/emotional challenges. We've been looking at various 9-12 schools, public and private, and at this point feel well-versed in various schools' approaches to learning and social/emotional differences. We know that we will need to find an environment that has a blend of academic AND social/emotional structure and support. And we've found that the most crucial place for that structure/support is in the classroom, with the most crucial practitioners being teachers rather than learning support staff. That said, can anyone weigh in about the faculty at Orinda Academy -- in terms of their ability to differentiate instruction, their training (past and present) in working with students with learning differences, and the support that they receive from administration and other staff in that work? It seems clear that the school's overall philosophy and approach is inclusive and supportive of students with differences, but we are curious how that actually translates into the classrooms. Thanks! Deliberating Parents


I have a son who has been at Orinda Academy for four years. He has very strong and supportive relationships with most of his teachers, and they have almost all been very responsive.

The one area of frustration for me is that we have shared information with the school about the accommodations our son needs, and the school doesn't seem to have a system for making sure that all of the teachers understand his needs and provide accommodations. For example, he has dysgraphia and needs to do all of his work on his laptop. Time and again, teachers have in-class worksheets that require handwritten answers, or assignments and tests that are not adapted to the laptop. When we remind teachers about the accommodations needed, they always do it. But it feels like we shouldn't have to go over the same ground constantly, especially at such a small school where one would expect communications would be easier.

That said, I feel like the school is making much more of an effort to be friendly to students with learning differences. I suggest that you start off with a plan to implement accommodations, and check in periodically.

My son also has executive function problems, and OA has been great at helping him. He's now a senior, gets all of his work done without intervention from his parents, is on the honor roll, and has been accepted to several colleges. When he started in 9th grade as an extremely disorganized and demoralized kid, I never thought that would be possible. Anon


I am writing in response to a question posted Feb. 4th about Orinda Academy, a small college prep independent high school in Orinda, Ca. My son, a junior, has been at OA for 3 years. Orinda Academy has been a great school for my son. This is a fantastic school that provides the structure that empowers students to take responsibility for their learning. Within the classroom teachers really care about the student and are willing to provide extra time and extra assignments to help all of their students succeed. For example if your child isn't a good test taker, he/she will need to take all classroom tests (as is appropriate), but then the teacher will provide ways that your student can do other kinds of assignments (more fitting to their personal strengths) and then be able to beef up their grades. I've found teachers always respond to any concerns that I have in a timely manner and are always willing to work with my son. OA gladly takes students with Learning Differences as long as they are willing and motivated to do the work and will meet the teachers half way. I believe their motto of 3 rings, teachers/students/families working together is absolutely true. My son has been incredibly successful at Orinda Academy and is looking forward to a successful college path after next year. Most importantly he feels smart, and valued and has learned how to take responsibility for his own education. SB


Jan 2011

We are a two mom family interested in Orinda Academy for our child. Does anyine have any experience with this school- positive or negative- regarding the environment of inclusivity around LGBT families? PLease let me know your thoughts even if they don't seem significant. Any observations or reflections about this issue would be valuable. Thank you.


My son goes to OA, and he has a terrific group of friends who are gay, straight and transgender. He's straight, and he thinks that it is completely unremarkable that he has such a diverse group of friends -- which I think is wonderful. The school provides a very welcoming and accepting community for the kids.

I can't recall if I have met any LGBT parents at OA, but given the diversity of the students and the acceptance of the school and community, I would think that an LGBT family would feel just fine. Carrie


May 2010

Re: Looking for a High School for unhappy Orinda teen
Dear Rebecca, I think Orinda Academy may be perfect for your teen. It has a warm and nurturing environment; all the classes are conducted in small group learning environments; the school has an active anti-bullying policy; and the school actively follows a pre-college curriculum, with many strategies in place to assist kids who have LDs. It is not a charter or public school, but truly, the vast number of families at OA are there not because they are wealthy, but because they have found the very best environment for their teenagers. I am a teaching professional with a PhD and I understand something about creative learning. I have been delighted with Orinda Academy, where our son has flourished and where he actually WANTS to be at school. You could contact the director, Ron Graydon (Ron [at] orindaacademy.org), or the Admissions Officer. I'm also including my email address in case you want more info from me. Good Luck! Philippa


Take a look at Orinda Academy. They have a good arts and dance program, classes are small and students get to know their teachers. Also, the kids at the school are really nice and supportive of one another. Good luck. OA Parent


June 2009

Re: Student with mild aspergers looking for high school

Orinda Academy has many students with a variety of special needs, including Asperger's, and caters to them with small classes, lots of individual attention, careful academic monitoring, and efforts to build a supportive, accepting community. The school just doesn't like to position itself as a special needs school. This baffles some of its parents and pleases others. Visit for a day. Summer school starts soon, if it's not already in session. Summer school is a little different from the regular academic year, and gets a somewhat wider spectrum of students, but visiting now will still introduce you to many of the teachers and several of the regular students who are either making up missed work or getting ahead, and the general style of the place. If you like it, your daughter can visit for a day, too, and can shadow a current student. The administration can connect you with some of the Parent Group Board members, to answer specific questions from a parent's point of view. -Happy OA parent of successful LD kid


My son is at Orinda Academy and we couldn't be happier with the school. The philosophy of the school is that the very small classes and quick feedback make it possible to accommodate different learning styles while not in any way compromising a pre-college curriculum.

As for your daughter's mild asberger's, my advice would be to go to the school and ask for an interview with the head of the school, Ron Graydon. He is an extremely principled person who is not going to tell you that the school is right for her unless it is. I feel absolutely sure about this. He is very experienced and wise in terms of not only educational issues, but interpersonal dynamics amongst teens. P


There was a post about Orinda Academy in the last 'parents of teens' newsletter (see 'Happy OA parent of successful LD kid') in which the writers said the school has many sudents with a variety of special needs, including Aspergers. I am a member of the parent group board and have run this post by the director of the school, Ron Graydon. Ron mentions that in the entire school there is only 1 student with very mild Aspergers, and that well-meaning posts like this one misrepresent the school's mission and student body. If your daughter is looking for a special needs school that specifically addresses Asperger's students you might consider Orion Academy in Moraga, or Springstone School in Lafayette. For a special needs education (not specifically Aspergers) you might try Sterne School in San Francisco or Star Academy in San Rafael (SA caters for grades 1 through 10). Orinda Academy provides an excellent, inclusive college prep environment for a diverse range of students, and it strives very well to accommodate moderate learning style differences and to provide a positive and supportive culture where all students can work to their potential. It has been hugely successful for our son, who is very bright but has focus issues. P


I want to offer a suggestion to the parent looking at Orinda academy for their child with mild AS. I think that it is very important to the administration to protect their school from having a reputation for having LD children and the response from the director reflects that. It is not however in my opinion (as the parent of a child attending Orinda) that it was a typo. Orion is better suited for child with severe LD issues. Orinda could be an excellent choice for milder LD issues. It would depend on the issues your child faces. It is very small and most of the children have some type of concern that brings them to the school. The teachers are caring and available to work out individualized learning plans that can maximize your childC",b"s success. I think it is an excellent option that should be considered. I'm sorry that the administration shies away from acknowledging that. Been there parent


June 2009

Re: Help in Choosing a Private High School?
This isn't answering exactly the question you posed, about finding a counselor to help find an appropriate middle private school for your kids, but it does address the underlying question, from someone who's been there. Our son, who graduates high school this week, had an IEP in elementary school, and an asymmetric academic profile, with significant, quirky handicaps. Along the way and at a similar juncture to yours, we looked at several schools, including: The Community School (now the middle school at Park Day -- a great community with a developed curriculum of social responsibility, but not quite the right fit, unless we provided outside support), Orinda Academy (the best fit for us), The Archway School (small), Gateway High School (public school focused on LD kids, in SF, open to all in Bay Area, by lottery, do not need an IEP to apply), & Drew (high school in SF). We looked at many more.

Any school can be uneven, and Orinda Academy was sometimes, too, but it also offered some truly inspiring teachers and academic opportunities. for the most part, teachers there, were on our son's side, every day. They cared. Additionally, a few unique programs & processes in place there were crucial to his ultimate success: 1) most teachers encourage and give credit to students who revise work to correct errors, or produce another draft, of any assignment and often even tests; 2) teachers meet the students where they are, academically, and begin there; 3) students with incomplete homework must attend study hall the following day; 4) many classes have students from multiple grades; 5) the administration is flexible, within reason, about accommodating unusual academic requests; 6) there are written progress reports from every teacher, every two weeks; while some comments are perfunctory, many are not. Good luck. :-)


March 2009

Re: Considering alternatives to public high school
Consider Orinda Academy for your teen. Small class size with a lot of individual attention, responsive teachers, nice kids, accepting community. My son is a sophomore there, and is thriving. Anon


Feb 2009

I am a parent of a child at Orinda Academy, a small independent school in Orinda, California. This is a wonderful small school for bright, college bound students, who thrive in a nurturing, structured, high school environment. Class size is small, students and parents have access to teachers and the administration values a diverse student body. This school has been a great fit for my son and I speak with experience as a teacher (at another school) who has had one child attend public school and now has one child in private school. I am writing this letter because many perspective parents and students are unaware of how excellent and wonderful this school is. If anyone would like more information about Orinda Academy from a parent who is currently involved with the school, I would be glad to speak with you. S.


Oct 2008

Re: High School for learning disabled teens
Take a look at Orinda Academy (private, in Orinda), The Gateway School (public, in SF but accepts kids from all over the Bay Area, through a lottery system), and Drew (private, SF). Also check out the Parents Education Network, or PEN, a tremendous resource, sponsoring lectures, workshops and a well maintained website: www.parentseducationnetwork.org .

Orinda Academy is not specifically for kids with learning disabilities; but they do have a learning specialist on staff and make an effort to accept and accommodate varied learning styles. Classes are small and kids can participate in multiple grade levels simultaneously to match their skill set (e.g. 12th grade English and Algebra I in the same year). Most classes use a mastery learning system, in which grades can be improved by making corrections. Mandatory study halls for those who do not complete homework encourage development of good study habits. -OA parent


Feb 2008

I would like to add to the dialogue about Orinda Academy. Our son is there this year as a ninth grader. The reason we sent him there was that we were concerned about his potential to skate under the radar at public school. We knew that he needed an environment that was both structured and creative, as he is a very smart kid who will think of a million different reasons for playing computer games rather than aiming for the As of which hems capable. The school has completely met our expectations. Itms small, and most of the teachers are fully dedicated to unlocking the potential of every student there. Amazingly, my son said last weekend, 'I don't look forward to weekends so much any more because school is so much fun.' When I asked him what makes this so, he said that the teachers structure their classes so that learning is incredibly productive and fun. The teachers at Orinda Academy are also very cognizant of learning differences and of the need to keep kids with LDs at grade level q but they organize their classes so that such accommodations donmt compromise the college prep curriculum in any way. Kids are expected to perform to their full potential, and the teachers will be on them like a flash if they slack off. PK


Dec 2007

Can anyone give me a current recommendation for Orinda Academy? I have visited the school and so far am impressed and believe their mission statement and that the teachers really care about the students learning and their various learning styles. I would also be interested in hearing from parents that have switched their kids from another independent school that also had an upper school to Orinda Academy. Thanks!


My son just started Orinda Academy as a 9th grader this year, after being at an independent K-8 school. So far, it's been very good. Classes are small, and the school provides strong support for my organizationally-challenged son. The support they provide is designed to help the students learn to be more self-sufficient, and I really see it working. I also appreciate the fact that we receive progress reports with letter grades and comments from all of his teachers every two weeks. Teachers are generally very responsive. Socially, he seems to be doing better than he was at his previous school. Kids are open and the school community has a welcoming feel. The small size is mitigated by the fact that students make friends across all grades. The commute is easy from Berkeley/Oakland (the majority of kids at OA live in 510, the rest in 925): my son commutes on BART every day, as do a lot of other kids. The downsides: the campus is only so-so and there aren't as many activities available as there are at some schools. But for our son's needs, OA is a good fit. OA Parent


Our son is at Orinda Academy this year as a ninth grader. The reason we sent him there was that we were concerned about his potential to skate under the radar at public school. We knew that he needed an environment that was both structured and creative, as he is a very smart kid who will think of a million different reasons for playing computer games rather than aiming for the As of which he's capable. The school has completely met our expectations. It's small, and most of the teachers are fully dedicated to unlocking the potential of every student there. Amazingly, my son said last weekend, 'I don't look forward to weekends so much any more because school is so much fun.' When I asked him what makes this so, he said that the teachers structure their classes so that learning is incredibly productive and fun. The teachers at Orinda Academy are also very cognizant of learning differences and of the need to keep kids with LDs at grade level, but they organize their classes so that such accommodations don't compromise the college prep curriculum in any way. Kids are expected to perform to their full potential, and the teachers will be on them like a flash if they slack off.


Nov 2006

Does anyone have recent experience with Orinda Academy? We are looking at it for our 8th grade son. He has some learning issues and could benefit from the high student-teacher ratio, but I don't know if the very small size of the school is considered a disadvantage by the kids who go there. I visited, and liked the teachers and students.
Anonymous


My son spent two years at the Orinda Academy, and it was a good place for those two years. I would be happy to discuss our experience directly with the person inquiring.
Leslie


Nov 2006

I am considering Orinda Academy as a possible high school for my shy, socially awkward son. Although I'm interested in hearing anything parents can share about their students' experiences at Orinda, I'm particularly interested in hearing more about the students' social environment and whether it would be tolerant and/or welcoming for shyer, ''uncool'' students. Thanks
Shy kid's mom


Orinda Academy is an absolutely fabulous school. They provide a warm, nurturing environment while also providing a high quality academic program and small classes. My daughter has been at OA for four years and I have been impressed with the teachers and administrators throughout her tenure at the school. It is an ideal school for a shy student because the kids seem to look out for each other and they have a community atmosphere. It is a manageable social environment, not too overwhelming for someone who is shy. Definitely go visit, and/or give me a call if you want more information. Karen


One of the reasons many of us, parents and students, have been attracted to Orinda Academy is that it is a socially safe place for students who are not out going and socially are square pegs trying to fit into round holes. My son was able to blossom socially with his new found pals who shared many of his same interests - mainly video games and anime (spelling?). I also gave an extensive response in the November 3 newsletter.


October 2006

i would like to hear from parents of orinda academy students to get their take on the school. one of my son's teachers has recommended orinda academy as a good fit for him so i would like to find out more about the culture and environment. my greatest concern is that it has an alternative high school feel. i want to make sure that the environment is also a good fit for him. i am also curious if they have a bus available to students in the east bay (berkeley/oakland area). thanks for your feedback.


Our son has been at Orinda Academy since mid-7th grade. He is now a junior. I wouldn't consider OA an alternative school. It is a small school, 125 students grades 7-12. Class sizes are very small, averages around 11. Because it is small one-on-one attention and direct interaction with staff is excellent. Our son is receiving a good, solid education in an atmosphere that is encouraging and supportive. The program has built-in study halls that many parents say is worth the price of tuition because it lessens or takes away the homework arguments. One of the most common things students say about the school is how friendly fellow students are and how safe & secure they feel at OA. Another plus when you go to OA is that because the school is small, if you want to play a sport or be in the school play - you can! There is a student council, school dances, variety show, clubs, trips, cafeteria, homework club, etc. The campus is composed of 3 buildings and the use of a nearby play field. OA is just up the hill from the BART station. From there students walk to and area where the parents who drive their students pick up the ''BART'' students in a casual-carpool manner and drive them up the steep hill. After school they walk to the station (10 minute walk). Over 50% of the student body live on the west side of the Caldecott tunnel like we do here in Oakland. Feel free to contact me directly with more questions or visit the school's website at orindaacademy.org
Dena


Feb 2006

Our son is thriving in his first year at Orinda- it is very small and that has the obvious pluses and minuses but they are open to looking at your particular child's learning needs. We have a lot of contact with his teachers and can work things out as they come up rather than learn about the problems at the end when receiving a report card. I would be happy to share our experiences with you.
drjess


Feb 2006

Re: 12-year-old getting terrible grades - any suggestions?
If you are considering private schools, Orinda Academy might be a good fit for your son. Enrolling grades 7 - 12, it has a homework tracking and accountability system for all students, which somehow depersonalizes the issue and eliminates this issue as a source of friction at home and at school. Late homework earns an ''incomplete''. The ''incomplete'' student must spend their free periods the next day in a mandatory ''quiet'' study hall. Other students, whose homework is complete, elect to spend their ''frees'' in a number of other ways, like in an open-door, more sociable study hall, out on the basketball court, in the lounge, etc. Homework support available in both study halls, to the extent that the monitoring teacher knows the subject. This simple system encourages personal accountability and responsibility, and takes the parents out of the homework loop. Classes are small (12 - 15 students) and an effort is made to respect and accommodate different learning styles. Students may take classes at different grade levels in different subjects. Many enter the program with issues around homework completion, and the system works pretty smoothly to help them take control of the issue for themselves.
Orinda Academy parent