Park Day School

Community Subscriber
Private School
320 students
admissions [at]
(510) 653-0317 x 101
360 42nd Street, Oakland, CA 94609

Park Day School prepares students to be informed, courageous, and compassionate people who shape a more equitable and sustainable world. Learn more about our K-8 program, and begin the application process at We look forward to meeting you and your family! 

Parent Q&A

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  • Park Day Middle School

    Mar 30, 2023

    I've read a lot of reviews on Park Day School but I'd love to hear from families who joined Park Day for middle school and/or families whose children graduated from Park Day for middle school.

    Areas that I'd love to learn more about are:

    - Academic rigor (how prepared are they if they were to go to Oakland Tech or an academically competitive high school such as College Prep or Head Royce? Did you have to do tutoring to catch kids up?)

    - Math / STEM programs

    - Bullying, students' kindness, compassion, mean girl/boy culture

    - Materialism / pop culture / digital device/ social media

    - Middle school kids' romantic life? Not sure how to put this but what's the vibe with sexualization, budding teen romantic interests / social life (Is there a middle school prom/dance? Do they have social interaction with other middle schools?)

    - Drama/Performance arts

    - How non-athletic kids do at school in PE, clubs, and socially

    - Differentiated learning

    - What do middle school kids do after school? Is aftercare a thing? 

    - DEI and SEL curriculum (the sense I get is that the school is focused on DEI and social justice.) We try to encourage our child to recognize many shades of grey that make up the society as opposed to the black and white approach (Reproductive rights good v. anti-abortion bad; democrats good v. trump supporters bad, black lives matter good v. blue lives matter bad, etc.). We are progressive, but we do not want our child to immediately assume their position is the right one but rather think about why people who have different opinions and beliefs may think the way they do.  I often feel that our approach is not popular in the bay area.  We come from an extremely conservative part of the country where our atheist and liberal views are not popular. Although we may disagree with our family members who are loving and kind people but vote Republican and have different opinions, we try very hard to respect the differences while appreciating the good qualities they have instead of labeling each other simplistically as good or bad, sane v insane, Christian v. heathen, etc. 

    Thank you. 

    My daughter entered Park Day in 6th grade and graduated last year.  We are a Chicano and Black family with progressive politics.  My daughter and I were very happy with Park Day School.  I eventually felt comfortable without having to know everything that happened there as the Middle School Director and Teachers had there eye on everyone, knew who was who, what they were doing, and what their needs and interests were.  That said, of course, especially at that age, it is still good to check in with your child, as kids that age are learning to hide what they do.  PDS teaches critical thinking and inclusiveness, with a progressive bent, but do not dictate or define the good vs bad.  PDS is a very socially-emotionally focused school, yet their academics are good.  Kids often go onto all the high schools that you mention.  My daughter is more of an "average learner" with ADHD, and PDS was able to support her without her even know that she was receiving accommodations.  We moved out of the area and she is now going to a traditional, mid-large, American public school with good academic reputation.  She has not needed to do any remediation, and learned excellend executive functioning skills at PDS, such that she has not used accommodations at her new school.  

    For being a private school, it is relatively diverse - become more so with the new leadership.  Also, it is very low in the materialism scale.  One long-time staff member commented to me that they are known as the "hippie school" -- maybe as far as private schools go.

    The kids are typical re pop culture / digital device/ social media.

    Drama class is mandatory in 6th grade to support socio-emotional learning at this age.  After that it is elective.  Students choose an elective each semester between Art, Music and Drama.    There are 1-2 performances per year for each of these interest groups.

    There is a middle school dance.  Her dance was during Covid, so I don't know what is typical.

    Non-athletic kids do just fine in PE.  In fact, one of my concerns was that PE was oriented to the non-athletic, and the athletic did not get training to their level.

    There is aftercare, but it is very geared to the younger kids.  My daughter went a couple of times a week in 6th grade, but was a bit too old, and ended up helping out with the littles.

    The school organizes a panel of graduates to speak to upcoming graduates and I don't remember if this was also created for prospective families.  The school does have a meet a greet of prospective families with current families, and will also link you with an individual family if you would like to talk more individually.

    My daughter was ready to graduate about 6 months before the end of the year, and move onto a larger school with older students.  Now that she is in the larger school, she misses the intimacy and community of PDS.  She is going to transfer to a small HS that is socio-emotionally focused, with that intimacy and sense of community.

    We have an 8th grader at Park Day and have been incredibly happy with the whole Middle School experience – of course wish 6th grade had been less impacted by the pandemic, but even through that it has been a solid academic and social experience. Progressive education at Park Day is structured so that academics have a heavy emphasis on critical thinking rather than simply regurgitating facts. Because of that, we’ve found the program both rigorous and engaging for our kid. 

    She is a self motivated person already, but learning at Park Day has only done more to emphasize that it is the learning process and understanding and building on academic concepts that is important rather than a single score or stand alone grade. That said, the scores we see on assessments, essays, and other assignments are high, as are the standards based grades that come back on progress reports twice a year. These aligned with the scores we saw on the standardized tests our kid had to take applying to high schools, and they were admitted to all the schools to which they applied. 

    I don’t think there is any Middle School in this world where 12 and 13 year olds are completely kind to each other 100% of the time, but my child has not experienced anything close to “mean girl/boy culture”. Have there been social bumps? Of course. But the teachers and Middle School Head are on top of it, accessible to the students (and parents if needed), and intervene appropriately. The school has worked with Common Sense Media to support students, teachers, and parents with regard to digital culture, and cell phones are not permitted out during the school day.  I’ve participated in school provided parent education on tech topics, and have an open dialogue with our child about digital footprint, and online behavior. We have an agreement where we can see our child’s chats/texts etc. at any time, and while we don’t abuse it, the one time I heard of a bump in the grade, we did check it out and were impressed to see that the mean comment was immediately shut down by upstanders in the grade who were also online. That made me feel even more confident about the social vibe at the school. 

    What else? There are usually a couple dances a year. My child has been actively involved in the drama program. They performed Midsummer Night’s Dream last year, and there is a Cabaret performance this year. Not a sports person but participate in PE (and have discovered through that they like Lacrosse), have also participated in a couple of the after school competitive sports, albeit grudgingly. Regarding kids having their own opinions and learning to use evidence to make persuasive arguments, that is very much a part of any program that focuses on developing critical thinking. Park Day does this while introducing issues that help students understand the complexities of the world and how important their role is in being a changemaker to help make it better

    While my Park Day student is in Lower School and won’t hit Middle School for a few more years, I’m a teacher at one of the schools you mentioned and work directly with Park Day graduates. As an advisor, I've noticed that the Park Day kids are consistently thoughtful, self aware, and seem to love learning for learning’s sake. They are emotionally intelligent and will share authentically of themselves with others. Park kids also tend to be good self-advocates and collaborators. They approach teachers or peers for support as easily as they offer to help others.  As a park parent, I see where some of this comes from. My daughter is curious about the world and Park has given her the language to talk about serious issues such as the unhoused and climate issues and how to be a change-maker. Park graduates are civic minded in the clubs they join, curious in the questions they ask and excited to learn in the way they try new things (sports! art classes! languages!.)  One of my favorite signs that I’ve seen in my child’s first grade classroom and also in middle school classrooms is something like, “what perspective is not in the room right now?” Another one said "How might someone else year that?" Asking these questions early and often clearly helps kids have empathy for others and an appreciation for other perspectives. I fervently believe that Park sets kids up to love learning, to be emotionally intelligent, and personally reflective.

    Hi there!

    My twins (boy/girl) are in 8th grade at Park. They came in 6th. It's been nothing but positive. I'll try to answer all your questions.

    Academic rigor: Both of my kids applied to and got into Lick Wilmerding, Bentley, Bishop O'Dowd, and St. Mary's—all very "rigorous" high schools. Their middle school teachers and HS counselor prepared them well, and we are confident they will continue to excel academically (and otherwise) in high school. 

    - Math / STEM programs: both are very strong. My kids were challenged and also supported to learn and grow beyond their comfort levels. My daughter is planning on doing advanced math in high school. She feels very prepared and confident to take on this challenge. 

    - Bullying, students' kindness, compassion, mean girl/boy culture: Any middle school in the world is going to have "mean" kids because, hey, middle schoolers! That said, Park has a specific focus on social emotional education—both proactively and in response to social dynamics that inevitably occur. My kids have learned to navigate social issues well—for themselves and each other, and also sticking up for others when they see stuff going on. I'd be naive to say that bullying is non-existent (because, again, middle schoolers!), but kindness, compassion, empathy, and collaboration are all traits that are explicitly taught, cultivated, and normalized at Park, starting in kindergarten and continued all the way through 8th grade. In sum, you're not going to find a middle school that is better equipped and tuned in to the social dynamics of middle schoolers. 

    - Materialism / pop culture / digital device/ social media: Kids are not allowed to use their phones at school (some teachers collect them at the beginning of each day). My twins do not have any social media accounts and have not asked for them. The school downplays materialism as best it can. 

    Middle school kids' romantic life?: Neither of my kids has had an SO in middle school. Some of their friends have/do, but it is not a big deal from what I've observed and/or from what I've heard from other parents. There are one or two dances each year, which the kids seem to see mostly as social opportunities, rather than sexual opportunities. 

    - Drama/Performance arts: Very strong! My son plays in the band. Both of my kids excel and love art. And many of their close friends are in the drama program and love it. All the teachers are excellent. (And I'm a musician myself, so I can tell!)

    - How non-athletic kids do at school in PE, clubs, and socially: Park is not an "athletic kids" school at all. If you do sports, great! If you don't, great! It's not a social determinant like it can be at other schools. PE and sports clubs are great ways for kids to try out new activities without the pressure to perform. 

    - Differentiated learning: The middle school has a learning specialist, and teachers are very good at providing individualized learnings for students who need them. 

    - What do middle school kids do after school? Is aftercare a thing?: Aftercare is strong. Lots of activities and opportunities. Also, kids will sometimes walk to Piedmont Avenue, Telegraph, or College together. 

    DEI and SEL curriculum: Running out of characters, but, yes, DEI/social justice is a focus. And part of that focus is learning to respect different perspectives and lived experiences. 

    I have two children who went through Park Day’s middle school, one who went to Bentley and the other who is now at College Prep.  Before I try to address some of the specific concerns you have, I just want to say that I love the school and continue to be committed to its well-being.  The teachers and the administration really care about the kids.  They get to know they and make their well-being a top priority.  Because of that, I would say that the school cultivates a true culture of kindness.  While that’s never perfect — and certainly in middle school there might be issues and tensions that can pop up — I feel like my children were always well supported, were able to make strong relationships with peers and really were encouraged to find their voice, especially in those tricky middle school years.

    To answer some of your specific concerns:

    *I think they are plenty academically rigorous.  Overall, my kids were well prepared for high school.  Most importantly, they are curious students, which, I believe, is even more critical to encourage true learning.  Ditto for math/stem.  My CPS kid is needing some tutoring for STEM, but frankly, I think that’s more about CPS than it is about Park Day.  I have a good friend with an older kid at CPS who went to Redwood Day and when I mentioned that I was getting tutoring for my freshman, she said, “Oh, yeah, at CPS they all need that support."

    *There were definitely dances and other appropriate social events that the middle school kids were engaged in.  Even during Covid (which the school did an incredible and thoughtful job of managing), the school found a way to do fun things with the kids like an outdoor movie night.  The campus is great for that, by the way.  I think it’s the most magical campus in the east bay.  

    *Differentiated learning is particularly strong at Park.  

    *My kids didn’t do after school programs in middle school.  At some point, they are old enough that a group of them walk together somewhere (like the rockridge library) and hang out to do work together.  

    Again, I want to say that despite the size of the school, I think there’s room for lots of different kinds of kids — athletic, artistic, brainy.  The school creates a culture of acceptance.  I have no regrets that I sent my kids there.  I think that Park Day supported them in being the thoughtful, caring people they now are.  

    I have to say I’m impressed with the detail and analysis of the responses of other PDS parents thus far!  I agree with much that’s been written so I’m not sure it’s necessary to respond to each of the questions posed but I’ll try to provide my overall impressions.  I’m the parent of a 6th grader that began Park Day this year and we have a 5th grader that will be entering the school next year as well.  I think it was evident from the beginning of the admissions process that the school was very intimate and inclusive.  My 6th grader felt welcomed from his first visit and was sure of his choice to attend there.  He has loved his experience at Park Day.  He feels supported and challenged at the same time…which I believe is the balance you’re looking for in a school setting.  He believes the academics are stimulating but not overbearing…again, balance.  He uses his study halls and consultancies to do most of his work while at school and he does roughly 30 minutes every night at home.  He’s very diligent and independent and the PDS scholastic environment suits him.

    I’m not sure how the faculty and administration could be more welcoming and accommodating to a new family.  Angela, the head of school, is incredible.  She stands at the front of the school EVERY morning and greets the students and talks with parents.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a head a head of school do this but it points to the community that is created there from the top down.  I agree with other parents that I generally don’t see the bullying or materialism that we observed at other schools our children attended in the area.  In that sense, it’s very refreshing…kids can just be kids for the most part…which is no small task these days.  My son made the comment to me earlier in the year that he’s not necessarily friends with everyone at the school but that there are absolutely no bullies/jerks.  I found that amazing (and so did he) for a middle school.  He said the vast majority of the other kids were very kind/cool.  I think this is very unusual and again, speaks to the community created there.

    As far as the DEI element to the school, I think that is a specific point of emphasis at Park Day  I believe it’s a very liberal school in general and that’s one of the things we love about it.  I would venture to guess it’s one of the most liberal schools in the area, if not beyond.  Just something to be aware of as you make your choice.  If I had to put it on the spectrum, I would say it’s very left-leaning.

    Overall, I want to be more critical but I just can’t given our experience thus far.  It has been a warm, welcoming, inclusive environment for our son with enough academic rigor and stimulation.  I keep coming back to the word, balance.  I do think the general kindness of the student body and the environment nurtured there are quite unusual/special.

    I'm happy to speak to some of these points.We currently have a 6th grader (that started in 5th) and 8th grader (that started in 6th). We have loved the school and were particularly impressed with the way they handled the pandemic.

    Academic rigor- I think the academic prep is great! Both of my boys feel challenged which was not the case at their previous school.My 8th grader got into all of the schools he applied to (including Head Royce & CPS).The High School counselor at Park is amazing and the teachers prepared him well. I have no doubt that this will hold true for our 6th grader as well.

    - Math/STEM - Both programs are quite strong. My older son really enjoys and is challenged by the science program. Both the 6th & 8th grade Science and math teachers are amazing and the classes seem very engaging. They try to incorporate lessons across classes which I love because they get to learn about a particular concept/topic from many different lenses.

    Bullying- Well, It is middle school so some of this is to be expected but in our experience it has not been an issue. The entire faculty and staff at PDS lead with kindness, compassion and inclusivity. We have found (for the most part) that the kids do as well. If there is ever an issue it's addressed promptly at an age appropriate level throughout the grades.

    Materialism /pop culture/digital device/social media - I don't see materialism within the community from a parents perspective. Kids are allowed to take phones to school but are supposed to check them in during the day as far as I know. My kids are not on social media yet but not sure about the others.

    Middle school kids' romantic life- From what I've seen, it's all pretty innocent and kind of cute! Because of the pandemic the school has only had a few dances.  It's my understanding that the dances used to be combined with other middle schools. Not sure if/when they will bring that back.

    Drama/Performance arts. My oldest is a theater kid.  He loves Drama at Park and the teacher.  I'm always so impressed with how much he gets out of it.  The program is great and they are constantly going on field trips to see shows.They also have a weekend in SF planned for the Drama class where they will stay overnight, see a show and take a dance class.  The performances they put on are great. Last year they did A Midsummer Night's Dream and they have an upcoming cabaret at the Aurora theater in Berkeley next month. 

    How non-athletic kids do at school in PE, clubs, and socially Just fine! My oldest is not athletic and is doing great! Has a great relationship with students and teachers (even the PE teacher) and is very involved with clubs and school events. My younger son loves sports but doesn't always love competitiveness.  Park does a great job balancing the two. 

    Differentiated learning - There is a learning specialist in both the middle and lower schools and they also have an on-site counselor. All of the teachers are very dedicated and always willing to offer individualized help if needed.

    Aftercare- Yes, the school does have many after school programs and sports to choose from. Many kids participate. Including my 6th grader.

    - DEI and SEL - DEI and social justice are definitely a focus and students are taught to  respect different perspectives. They are very socially-emotionally focused and their Director of Equity and Inclusion is really great.

    My teenager attended Park Day School from K-8 and is now at Oakland Tech.

    In terms of academic rigor, the middle school is - in my view - excellent. The deep thinking, mix of independence & collaboration and individualized attention on the humanities side of things is an excellent foundation for future studies. In particular, the students are encouraged to see stories from all perspectives and consider diverse points of view. A mantra that carries through elementary and middle school there is "Who's perspective have we not yet considered?" I agree with another parent that the social justice work is framed with a lens of empathy, compassion, equity and inclusion rather than right or wrong. Secondly, across the board, the teachers encourage the children to use their voices. There is plenty of room for differentiation and lots of project-based work. They spend tons of time on discussion-based learning and teachers have tremendous respect for the students' unique points of view. Someone once said to me, "Park Day kids arrive in high school with something to say." It's true. I've never met a group of self-assured, kind, sure-footed middle schoolers quite like this bunch.

    My teen is finishing up 9th grade at Oakland Tech and despite being an average-ish Park Day student is so far an exceptional Tech student. They know how to build relationships with teachers and peers, can self-advocate as needed, have joined seemingly every club and are truly proud of themself and thriving. We talk regularly about how grateful we are that we were able to send them to Park Day. Mostly because of the way PDS builds a curious, thoughtful and considerate approach to the world (and school work), but also because Park Day really respects the students and trusts them to have thoughtful, safe (and age appropriate) discussions about our complex world, society & community. I'm proud to have been a part of the school and grateful for the human they helped my kid become. 

  • Park Day for middle school

    Mar 20, 2021

    Hello, I need some recommendations about Park Day School in Oakland. I am thinking of enrolling my daughter in 6th grade. I would like to hear about how prepared (academic) they get to high school. How is the transition for new kids? I already read wonderful things about community, inclusion, and social justice. Thank for your help


    We have a current middle schooler and are so happy with the program both academically and socially. Often progressive schools get misunderstood as soft on academics, but that has NOT been our experience at all. Our child has always been strong academically and the teachers definitely challenge him in the academic arena, including math extensions and pushes to go more deeply in the Humanities. The teachers truly know the kids and the kids feel like they can go to them - in middle school especially that relationship is KEY. One of the best parts about the academic and specialist programming is that it’s integrated across the curriculum so students get really engaged in what they’re learning and go deep and think critically as opposed to simply memorizing a bunch of facts in isolation that they forget. The Park Day grads we have known are truly prepared and thriving - at Head Royce, College Prep, Bentley, O’Dowd, Maybeck, and Lick Wilmerding, as well as Oakland Tech and Berkeley High. The range of high schools students attend is actually pretty amazing and speaks to the fact that the school works with your kid and family to find a school that’s just right for your kid. We couldn’t be happier as parents, and best of all our kid is thriving and thinks Park Day is the best school ever. Finally, the way Park Day has handled the pandemic is AMAZING - our middle schooler is on campus full time!! - and our new Head is phenomenal. I hope you join us! 

    Our daughter is in Middle School (6th grade) at Park Day and we’ve been incredibly happy with the academic rigor, and how engaged she is with her work. She loves science and has been diving deep on their studies of weather and atmosphere, but I think what is most exciting for her is their upcoming unit on the carbon cycle and human impact on the climate. Real world scenarios are woven into so much of the curriculum at Park Day, and I think the relevance to the kids own lives helps them lean into their work. The math curriculum covers all the content areas you’d expect but in addition to assessments and all the more traditional stuff, they learn concepts with games, projects, “Math Talks” and other engaging ways to pique the kids’ interests. 

    We don’t have to do a lot of nagging around homework or studying. Our kid is motivated and takes her assignments seriously. The teachers know their students well, and I think the relationships they form with them helps with student motivation. Our daughter’s humanities teacher sends her home with new books regularly and is tapped into my child’s interest areas in a way that is meaningful to both her and to us. 

    You asked about the transition for new kids, and while our daughter started at school in one of the lower grades, she is friends with students who started this year. She is only in 6th grade, so I can’t speak to the high school transition yet, but she is an academically focused kid and already has expressed interest in one of the Bay Area high schools that is known for its academic rigor and focus. I have no doubt she will be prepared to get into her top choices given what our experience has been thus far, and based on alumni we know who came from Park Day.


    Park Day is wonderful about understanding that 6th grade is both a common grade for students to switch schools and the beginning of middle school/cusp of young adulthood. It’s a double transition that the school fully embraces!

    My daughter is currently an 8th grader at Park Day (started in K), and my son is now in 10th grade and attended K through 8. They both have friends who started Park Day in various grades. And in all honesty, I can’t remember which kids started when because they are simply just one wonderful cohort.

    The school will pair new students with one or two current students before school starts so there can be some hang outs over the summer. Often times, those hang outs will include one or two other current students. It’s a great way for the kids and parents to get to know each other. Once school starts, the teachers pay close attention to cohort dynamics and are intentional about what pairs or group work together, and pretty quickly the students settle in.

    The middle school also has some athletics teams and that’s a great way for kids to mix across 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. No one is cut from the team and all kids get to explore the athlete within themselves. My daughter used to be afraid of any game with a ball, and at Park Day, she played ultimate Frisbee, basketball, and volleyball. I mention the athletics because it’s a place where even the kids who have been at Park Day for a bit may feel new/nervous and share in that experience of what it’s like to be new.

    In terms of being prepared for high school, my son is at a public high school and feels Park Day prepared him well. He didn’t know what to expect going from a cohort of 36 to a cohort of 600, and he has done well. He found clubs and sports, and his lowest grade has been an A-.

    Honestly, irrespective of his grades, what we appreciate about Park Day is that he learned how to have agency over his education; ask questions from a place of inquiry; and navigate new situations. IMHO, those really are the key to long-term academic success and a lifelong love of learning. 

    I am a parent with two kids that joined Park Day during this tumultuous year and my family has been incredibly happy. We had a 6th grader and an 8th grader transition in this school year and I feel like they have been academically challenged and very supported by the teachers and staff. The small class sizes mean my math-inclined 8th grader has been able to move ahead in math for the first time in her academic career and my writing-inclined 6th grader has been able to tackle complex writing projects with strong teacher support and guidance. They have had a lot of individual attention and been able to stretch academically in ways they haven't previously. I do not have any concerns for my 8th grader moving into high school next fall and both kids have felt welcomed and gotten to know their peers (although that has been understandably more difficult this year). I have no doubts my 6th grader will also be prepared for high school when the time comes. We weren't totally sure what we were jumping into this year but we are very glad we made the decision to join Park Day.

    My daughter entered PDS in 6th grade just before the pandemic.  It is a great year to enter, as it is the beginning of middle school, and there are other kids entering then too.  PDS did a great job of hosting many social gatherings --on campus and off campus -- before the start of the year, so that there were familiar faces on the the first day of school.  When school starts, there is a very warm plan including an assigned peer buddy to help the new student orient.  Overall, PDS is a GREAT social-emotional environment!  I also love the academics in that they teach the students critical thinking vs just rote learning to pass tests.  Subject matters are integrated to each other, and relevant to the student's interests and lives, as well as the the larger socio-political environment.  I am a highly critical person, but there is not one substantive area that I am unhappy with at PDS -- on quite the contrary, I am very pleased and happy.

    Hello, my twins just started sixth grade this year. Given all that's going on in the world (i.e., a global health pandemic), they are thriving at Park Day School. They have had no issues with adjusting to a new school even with being partly on Zoom and partly on campus. The transition has been eased by the school communicating very clearly, regularly, and compassionately about the logistical and emotional stuff that's going on. And the sixth grade teachers (and I imagine all the teachers) do a fabulous job of holding space for conversations and are very attuned to each kid's needs and personality. Middle school in a pandemic is not ideal, and, I couldn't think of a better place I'd rather have my kids. 

    My daughter attended Park Day K-8 and is now at Bentley. She would tell you that she was challenged and very well-prepared for high school, perhaps even over-prepared in math (thank you, Jeff)! Freshman year, she landed in three honors classes, including Spanish 3H. But more importantly, I think, her eagerness to learn was nurtured all along the way. Her middle school years stand out in particular for me because, at a time when girls may become quieter or less sure of themselves, my daughter just blossomed. She became more motivated than ever and grew in confidence, self-awareness, and self-expression. I attribute this in part to her teachers and advisors, who truly know and care about each student. They are masters of their craft, as well as creative and fun. 

    There were several new kids along the way, though it's hard to remember in which grade, because they were quickly brought into the fold. Two of these girls, who came in 5th and in 6th grade, immediately became two of my daughter's best friends. Later, I heard them describe how welcomed they felt, on more than one occasion. The school does an excellent job with this.

    On both counts, then, I can't speak highly enough!

    There are lots of wonderful things about Park Day but, as a parent who sent their child there in middle school, I would also caution that I don't think it is a good fit for all kids. My spouse and I are both very progressive and value tolerance above all; but in fact we found little tolerance for our kid who questioned authority and spoke out and, quite unlike PDS' philosophy and intentions, mostly shut him down instead of working with him, as they might have with the shy kid or other personality types. The hypocrisy was not lost on him.  Further, I found the academics in middle school to be largely mediocre with a few bright spots in science, music, and drama. My mother was an expert in progressive education; when I told her some of the ways his English and his social studies teachers had handled his learning, she said "Well, progressive education is really difficult; if it were easy, everyone would be be doing it."  Our family spent only one year there but I note that other families with older siblings who went all the way from elementary to graduating from 8th grade there did not have their younger children continue there as the younger ones rose to the middle school. This was several years ago now, and I see that the head of school and the middle school director as well as most of the middle school teachers have changed, so my specific information is out of date.  But, based on our experience, I recommend that you ask PDS lots of questions about how they would nurture, guide, and respond to your child's particular personality type and interests, how tolerant they really are about 'differences,' and how their middle school curriculum and teachers have evolved over the last 5 years.

    Hands-down Park Day School has been a gem in my daughters lives and my family’s as well. Nowhere have I seen a school so dedicated to the wellbeing of both the child and the family. My two daughters have been attending PSD since they were in 1st and 4th grade. They have different learning styles and PDS has been stellar in accommodating them. My oldest, now graduating from 8th grade, needed more academic support and PDS stepped in immediately to help scaffold her learning needs. She has thrived, loving all subjects, excelling in math. The school, based on its small sized classrooms, has the capacity to accommodate curricula based on the student’s abilities. She speaks up for herself, participates in all subjects, has been mentor to lower grades, and has importantly loved learning. She got into her three top private schools this year, a testament that PDS wholeheartedly prepares these teens for the next level of education. My youngest will be entering middle school and I have no doubt she’ll too thrive and succeed. All subjects in the middle school are built on a rock-solid foundation with dedicated staff and faculty. Lastly, one more plug for PDS. What I love is the absolute inclusion and acceptance for all children present. Never seen is violence, no bullying, and importantly for my family no “glam girl” competition. My kids play, hangout, and socially engage, having built strong lasting friendships.

  • I would love to hear from current or recent Park Day families about their experience with the school for 4th-8th grades.  I have a 3rd grader and am considering sending him to Park Day for 4th grade next year.  I don't have a sense of the curriculum and what the middle school program is like.  I talked to some friends of friends who indicated that the school is great through 5th, but they plan on transferring out for middle school.  I also know there's been a lot of turnover with the head of school, other key staff, and teachers.  Can anyone speak to that - why all of the turnover?  I heard great things about the prior head of school, but he was only there for 1 year.  Thank you for your help!

    We had a wonderful experience at Park Day. However, we began to notice some academic gaps and strange curricular issues appear after one year in the middle school. This feeling also became more apparent when we viewed other independent middle schools in the east bay. The PD middle school has some solid teachers, but the school has not paid the same attention and financial investment to it compared to the lower school. They also have not had the same clear and sustained leadership at the PD middle school compared to other parts of the school. Great community and campus. I’m happy to talk to you offline about this as well. 

    We have two kids who have been at Park Day School since K (daughter/6th and son/8th). They have had classmates join at 4th and 6th and all of the students -- no matter when they  started at Park Day -- find a joyful learning experience.

    The K-8 curriculum is rigorous in a way that meets students where they are at; challenges them to be problem-solvers; and values everyone’s knowledge. For example, at the beginning of a geometry lesson, when a shape is on the board, the teacher might start with the question, “what do you notice about this shape?” (Notice that the question isn’t “what’s the name of this shape?”) 

    By asking “what do you notice about this shape?” all students are invited to comment on it. The lesson then builds from there to talk about the characteristics of an isosceles triangle, how to determine area, etc. In middle school science, the question before they start a dissection might be, “what do you notice about this sheep’s brain?” What a great way to engage all students in mathematical and scientific thinking!

    What we love about the Park Day education is that our kids don’t just memorize their math facts. They get a strong foundational understanding of why numbers work the way they do. That is applicable for a lifetime of learning! They might not memorize the dates of historical events but they go deeper to explore and think critically about why an event happened and its outcomes (both intended and unintended). 

    Regarding staff changes, the most important thing to know is that our children have continued to thrive despite the changes. As adults, we can get nervous when faces change, but all of the staff at Park Day (teaching and non-teaching) have kept our children at the center of what they do. Discussions in the classroom about change (and how to deal with it) allow students to voice their wonderings; allow teachers to address it in an age-appropriate way; and allow the engaged learning to continue fully. This speaks volumes about the strength of Park Day not relying on one person but truly being a community. 

    Broadly, it is considered good school practice to have a third of teaching staff veterans; a third mid-career; and a third early career. That’s where Park Day is now. Previously, there were many more veterans, and some of them retired and returned to mentor new teachers. We are grateful to founding staff who cultivated what many of us call the magic of Park Day. I was on the Board of Trustees during a bulk of the transition, and I can say with confidence that current staff are just as dedicated to upholding Park Day’s mission as the founders, while carrying on the legacy of what makes Park Day wonderful, and at the same time they are innovating for the 21st century. It was difficult when our head of school stepped down last year but it was due to circumstances beyond the school’s control and it was a personal decision made by him.

    Just as Park Day teaches our kids to see opportunity in change, the school is modeling for them how to navigate change – all the while continuing to foster in our children a deep love of learning and being partners with us parents in raising the next generation of "informed, courageous, and compassionate people who shape a more equitable and sustainable world" (from Park Day's mission statement). 

    Our child is in 4th. Academically (and in how my kid is becoming a thoughtful human, aware of the world outside herself), we have been really happy. The emphasis at the school is on critical thinking, and the skill-based learning is embedded in larger, deeper projects. In math, they solve problems using multiple strategies, focusing on understanding the big mathematical concepts. In social studies they are teaching the kids to analyze from the point of view of different parties and perspectives, which I appreciate. There seems to be a lot of direct lines to the kids interests in writing, reading and absorbing basic skills around research, persuasion, and presentation. Genius hour where they go deep on a topic of their own choosing. They are about to start a big individual research project in 4th, and my kid loves giving book talks where she writes-up and pitches her favorites to the class. There's also a ton of group work and collaboration which is helping my kid negotiate other people's ways of thinking alongside her own. The focus on academic depth, persuasion, and using data to make a point was in the lower grades too, but the dial has been cranked in 4th, and from what I hear from parents in the higher grades, it keeps climbing steeper. The emphasis on questioning and critical thinking may not be for everyone-- they don't do a ton of memorization and cramming facts for the sake of regurgitation, but it works really well for my kid-- she truly loves going to class. In terms of leadership, all I can say is my child is supported, our teachers seem to be happy, and we have had a smooth and respectful experience with the team in place. There have been a couple shifts, including the head last year due to a health thing, but despite, it feels like a stable core. From talking to friends at other places, I don't get the sense there is more teacher turnover than at other Bay Area schools. I know it's hard to be an educator in our economy, but from the new to veteran teachers that we've had so far, our kid has been doing really well.

    My 5th grade daughter has attended Park Day School since she started kindergarten. Our family has had a very positive experience, and next year our daughter will be continuing into Park Day's middle school along with her friends. During our time with the school there have been staff changes and turnover, but it hasn't negatively affected our daughter's experience. On the contrary, the administrative staff have been forthright in communicating these changes and have provided support to ease the transitions. For example, before my daughter started 3rd grade one of the established 3rd grade teachers left to take an administrative position at another school. I understand that becoming an administrator was one of her career goals and that it was a good opportunity for her. The Park Day administrative staff was timely and direct in sharing the news with the 3rd grade families and in explaining their plan. They filled the vacancy with an experienced assistant teacher (already at Park Day) and recruited a new assistant teacher. My daughter had one of her best years with the two teachers (both with great personalities) supporting one classroom of around 16 students.

    More generally in regards to the turnovers and transitions, I'm seeing it more as a generational and Bay Area phenomenon than anything specific to Park Day. I work at a large Oakland employer that is seeing similar transitions, with a wave of retirements and others jockeying for positions as the Bay Area becomes a more expensive place to live. What I think is interesting about the change at Park Day is that the school values and culture have stayed solid. It makes me realize that the values and culture don't depend on individuals, that it's the community that holds those values, and new staff are brought into that culture in a stable and positive way. 

    Regarding the curriculum, we have enjoyed and benefited from the school's focus on socio-emotional development, hands-on learning, teaching through what interests and excites the kids, multidisciplinary projects, and the school's explicit commitments to racial justice and sustainability. For me, Park Day is a special place because of the progressive curriculum, the beautiful campus, and the cohesive and energetic school community. I hope our family's perspective is helpful, and I encourage you to visit the school and talk to teachers, staff, and parents. Tom Little's book "Loving Learning" is a very good resource for learning about the school's pedagogy, as well as some of the traditions in the school community.

     I went through the "search for the best middle school option" twice... once for my now freshman, and then for my current 6th grader. Two VERY different kids ...  i toured all the schools with very different profiles in mind ... My current 6th grader is now attending Park Day and 75% through the first year I can say WOW - this was a great choice!   We were not sure how things like the evaluations instead of grades would work but it is actually IDEAL! The academic evaluations provide the opportunity for him to get full credit for all the really great things he is contributing and learning while also being specific where improvement really needs to be made or his future success will be negatively impacted. The whole picture look allows momentum of the good things to continue and because you are not “paying for your mistakes with a bad grade”--- we all know how one bad period can destroy a grade point average. My child is smart but not self-driven – he will avoid homework like the plague if given the choice and to be honest, when I manage his time for him I am enabling him and driving myself bonkers—he needed to learn to be responsible for his own school work and no better time to learn by trial and error than middle school –before the grades count towards college. Park Day teachers stress students take personal responsibility for their work, their own ideas and their actions—both academically and socially.  My son – who is also engaged in music and competitive sports-- has been learning the hard way about procrastination and natural consequences but without the label a bad grade might bring—he has had a better opportunity to improve without judgement.

    What has impressed me the most with the middle school at Park Day is the real focus – not lip service- to diversity, community building and development of interpersonal communication skills.   Kids are confronted with their own real middle school behavior and how their social groups impact the community – they address exclusion, inclusion, language, and what it means to work together head on.  There is real problem solving both academic and social and it has made an incredible difference in classroom success.

    I work at a UC and recently listened to the Academic Dean report on the research around the student body served today with critical deficits identified in analytical thinking, problem solving and writing skills—all things my child is getting in middle school.  Park Day is helping my kid to investigate with a team – listen to different ideas in the room- ask people for input-- but make his own conclusions – and that is a great foundation for high school and for life.

    From what I understand about the staff turnover from recent alum parents and my experience is that most transitions have been personal, health, maternity issues and have been well managed and largely improving over the past 5 years and I can say it is MUCH LESS turnover that we experience at Thornhill Elementary, one of the best schools in OUSD.  A tribute to the leadership and teachers, I believe my child will be better prepared for his high school and beyond because he is able to thrive not just survive in middle school.


    I am glad to hear that you are considering Park Day for your child. My child started Park in Middle school and I can only speak about our own personal experience. We are very happy with our journey so far. My child has thrived in a very closed knit and nurturing environment. I see for myself how my child is better able to self -advocate and is also more compassionate. Teachers really place an emphasis on having students take charge on their own and I see valuable time management skills learnt as a result. 

    There were some kinks in the first year and that was brought up to the administration and I do see some tangible improvements being taken. For example, there was an issue with controlling a particularly rowdy bunch causing disruption in class and at the same time there was concern that there was not enough differentiated learning happening. As a result, this year's math class has been split into two groups per class, making the class size a nice number of 9 kids per class. It is certainly not the magic bullet solution but it seems like an appropriate response to parents concerns and I do appreciate that the administration was responsive.

    And yes, the head of school last year was excellent and we are immensely sorry to see him leave. Unfortunately it was due to health issues beyond his control. I am sure the steering committee will put in the same dedication into finding our new head of school as they did the last, we will be in capable hands. Hoping this might answer some of your questions.

    I cannot speak more highly about the middle school teachers and program at Park Day. The team is just stellar, both individually and as a group. Beginning in kindergarten, my daughter's love of learning, confidence, and sense of self have grown each year, but in 6th grade the curve became a spike, which has continued through 8th grade. To me this is remarkable in adolescence, and I credit the teachers at Park Day for helping to nurture these qualities in her.

    I am impressed by each and every middle school teacher at Park, some of who are seasoned and some are newer. All espouse a progressive education philosophy, differentiating high expectations for each student, depending on where they are, emphasizing critical thinking and project-based and real-world learning. My daughter benefits from increasing challenges, and by that I mean she is encouraged to reach toward a place of stretch not panic. The support in this realm is so valuable for students as they prepare for high school in terms of academic rigor, skills to advocate for themselves, work in groups to solve complex problems, speak out against injustice, and contribute to our school-neighborhood-world communities.

    Equally important, the middle school teachers have a palpable passion for teaching adolescents. They show this in similar and also complementary ways in their academic classes, in sports, and in advisory. The advisory program provides an opportunity for small groups of students to bond, promote social emotional learning, tackle topical issues and current events, and be silly.

    The 8th grade trip to Mexico for years has been a life-changing event for students. The trip is not a community service event; it is an immersion experience that the students prepare for, live, and reflect upon indefinitely.

    I believe other post have covered the turnover topic. Some turnover can be good, and some can be unexpected. I agree that the children are held at the center, and their day to day experience is stable.

    I could go on and on about Park Day, but I'll end with this: No school is perfect. And its a very individual choice when it comes to fit. For our family, all of these things were paramount: personalized instruction/rigor; deep relationships with teachers; joyful learning environment; thoughtful/intentional curriculum, not canned; integrated curriculum, drawing connections across all disciplines including art, music and drama, and gardening, maker space, etc.; caring community. And for us, Park Day has exceed expectations, for which we are immeasurably grateful.

    We have a 7th grade daughter at Park Day and this is her first year there, after leaving a Montessori school. We are beyond thrilled with what Park Day has done for our daughter, academically and developmentally. The small classes, engaged teachers and caring staff have made a world of difference for her growth this year. Within days of starting the school year, she had a group of welcoming friends, her interest in a greater variety of subjects began to soar, and she was excited about math at a time when many girls her age start to lose interest or confidence. Her math teacher in particular is very strong, and offers an invaluable creativity in his teaching approach and has a deep care for children to really learn in a way that is both applicable and exciting. Her music teacher is absolutely incredible as well, and offers a depth that I have never seen. Park Day leadership had been very warm, helpful, and considerate about our family's experience and although every school, organization, and family has their struggles, in our experience these are far outweighed by the benefits we've experienced.

    I am responding as the parent of a new to Park Day 7th grader. My daughter attended Walden K-6th, so we were looking for a similarly progressive pedagogy. The curriculum has been appropriately challenging and my daughter has always seemed engaged with what she is studying. Most importantly, she is eager to go to school every morning. Socially, I have been amazingly impressed by the warm welcome she (and we) have received. The girl drama has seemed nearly non-existent. My daughter has a core group of close friends and, though there are other “groups”, the kids seem to migrate in and out of these with ease. The 7th grade has been as close to a seamless transition as we could have hoped for coming from a very small K-6 experience. Oh, and the just love drop-off and pick-up time! I am happy to talk with you directly if you wish to contact me.

    We were very excited for our child to join the Park Day community, and loved the beautiful trees on campus and wonderful hot lunch.  However, we quickly noticed that the academics were not on par with what friends were being taught at other private schools in the area.  We initially liked the social justice focus, but that seems to come at the expense of academics.  In addition, though the open campus is lovely, when our young child wandered off campus unintentionally and unnoticed by staff, there was zero response from the administration when we raised the issue, which we thought was a very alarming safety and security concern -- especially given the neighborhood.  We brought up a number of other concerns with various members of the administration during our time at the school, and never felt like our concerns were heard or properly addressed -- responses were always opaque and vague, and left us feeling very unsatisfied with the leadership of the school.  There have been a number of changes in the head of school in recent years, and the school is currently searching for a new head, so hopefully there will be improvements in coming years.

  • Hi there--we've applied to a number of public and independent schools for our child who will be entering kindergarten this coming fall. We have narrowed it down to 2 schools that we really, really like. We find St. Paul's very strong in terms of academics, diversity, and overall fit with our family. Park Day School's outreach and communication has been superb, and we're also really impressed with the school and could definitely see our child there. However, it doesn't appear as diverse (in teaching staff) as St. Paul's. We're really having a tough time deciding between these schools and would love to hear from parents who were similarly conflicted and why they ultimately made the choice they did. Also would love to hear about any other thoughts in general about both schools.

    We're parents of a little one who's in 1st Grade at Park Day; this is our first year at the school. Diversity in teaching staff was one of the most important things on our list. As same sex, mixed parents of our little adoptive family, the fact that our son can look up to his principal and see a smart, compassionate, loving man of color, is something that can hardly be matched. We left Southern California because we felt that it was not a safe enough place to raise our African American son. At Park Day, he sees teachers and staff that look like him in nearly every leadership position (especially male teachers of color, which are often so hard to find in most schools). He sees men and women of varied ethnicities, ages, backgrounds, LGBTQ staff and students, as well as other kiddos who have adoption stories like him. On top of this, the school has a "Social Justice Initiative", or SJI, whose focus is to constantly broaden the scope of hiring, making the school ever more diverse and inclusive with each new hire. Then there's also the "Diversity & Justice Alliance" which works on creating cultural competency, advocating for POC at the school, educating and inspiring parents, staff and students with various types of outreach to create, again, an ever-more diverse campus that is constantly growing. In short, what we don't see at Park Day, we feel we can create. The staff are so open, engaged and excited here, it's truly empowering. We feel extremely blessed to have our kiddo here at this school.

    We are at one of these schools and have many friends at the other (and most of us considered both). Based on our collective experiences, they are both great and neither is perfect. A lot comes down to the details of how a school will fit your child and your family. PDS has an incredible campus and maker space. They wrote the book (literally!) on progressive education in the East Bay. St. Paul's seems more academically rigorous with a somewhat more traditional approach, and has more extensive engagement with the greater Oakland community. They have a service learning focus vs. PDS' social justice focus. Both have strong emphases on social-emotional learning. St. Paul's is generally more diverse in both student body and in staff (and many families seem to choose it for that reason). Visual arts seem stronger at PDS (at least in lower elementary), while St. Paul's has the chapel program and a strong performing arts/public speaking focus. Many kids who would be happy at one would also thrive at the other--they are more similar than they are different, in my opinion. Talk to current or recent parents for some of the recent hiccups at each school. Overall, I would be happy to have my child at either school. Most families we know (including our own) chose one over the other based largely on proximity (many neighborhood families at both schools, although plenty from farther away too) or financial aid offers.

    My daughter went to St. Paul's from Kinder through 8th grade. I loved most everything about the school (no school in the world is perfect) but a big deciding factor was the diversity of the entire school community, students, teachers and administrators. Over the years there were changes in staff and students but it always remained diverse. There are also a lot of male teachers, many of whom are people of color, which is great because in my experience that is not common. St. Paul's is a great school whose students graduate as lovely and caring young adults.

    I am the parent of a multiracial St. Paul's kindergartener. My partner and I looked at Park Day and St. Paul's as well as several others. Although Park Day has a stunning campus we found the diversity at St. Paul's to be more important to our decision. At St. Paul's about 1/3rd of the staff are people of color and almost 2/3rd of the students are of color and almost half the admin are as well. We want to have our child have role models that look like her, to have teachers and people in leadership roles around her that are form diverse backgrounds. We were definitely on the fence about where to send our child but found that St. Paul's really aligned with our values. We are very pleased with our choice and feel like our daughter has really blossomed in the St. Paul's environment. We have felt welcomed into the community and culture of the school. The place and staff feel really integrated into our town Oakland. The support form the school has been excellent. As a final note I will say that the other day I discovered a book our daughter had made. It was full of pictures of what I thought were princesses, something which I am luke warm about in terms of an ideal but each was a different color. I asked my daughter who these wonderful people were and she proceeded to name her classmates. Good luck with your decision. 

    I am a parent of a 3rd grader at St. Paul's, and he has been there since kindergarten.  Like you, I visited and applied for several public and private schools, but St. Paul's was my first choice and I could not be happier when we got in.  This feeling has continued to grow since then.  My son is engaged, has lots of friends and is excelling  academically. The teachers support his strengths as well and gently challenge his growing areas.  The school is truly diverse both in terms of its staff and student body.  There is a multitude of cross cultural/mixed race couples like us. My son is being exposed to and held in an environment that diversity, inclusion, understanding and acceptance are of upmost importance.  This has been reflected in the way my son handles himself when he meets other people. This is practiced weekly at Chapel, where the whole school meets to either celebrate a holiday from a given culture or religion, or to listen to a student presentation about kindness or civil rights.  Also, I feel that at any point when I need to clarify something with his teachers, or need to speak with the administrative staff I am welcome and my issue is fully addressed.  I have a real sense of belonging to a community that cares.

    Greetings - My wife and I are a parent of a current St. Paul's Kindergartener. It's our first year in the school and we also had the hard choice of making the decision b/t St. Paul's and Park Day. We had a couple friends/neighbors attending Park Day and it was indeed a very close call.  St. Paul's ended up being our #1 choice and the main factor was hands down diversity. Park day seemed ideal, but at the end of the day we needed a school that ultimately looked and felt like the city / world we live in... and we love the fact that St. Paul's is truly [in] Oakland.  Not only is the staff and school incredibly diverse. But we feel incredibly lucky to have a school in the heart of the city and next to the lake. St. Paul's acknowledgement and commitment to Oakland is unrivaled as it leads as a community-based school to diversity, service learning and academic excellence. You see it and feel it day in and day out.  I'd choose St. Paul's again for my child. 

        My grandchildren attend St. Paul's and are thriving academically and socially.  The diversity is important to our racially and culturally blended family.  I am a retired public school teacher and I think all children should have access to this quality of education.


        My children are in 1st grade at Park Day and like you, our family also liked St. Paul's School.  These two were our top schools.  We decided to join Park Day for several reasons:  We loved the school's teaching and learning philosophy.  The design and make emphasis and project-based learning is something that is key for us.  Our children have always loved learning and we wanted to do our best to help cultivate their curiosity, motivation and excitement about learning.  Our little kindergarteners are now these self-confident, outspoken, happy 1st graders who continue to love learning. This is only our second year at Park Day and our children are excelling in core academic areas, they have also made their own designs and have executed their project to create their designs, they have learned about change makers from different parts of the world, and have also learned to ask and answer questions in manner that exceeds our expectations for their young age.  They are currently doing research for their 1st grade project, and all this learning happens in a very developmentally appropriate manner.  One of the things that we appreciate the most is how Park Day's staff and teachers are very intentional about how learning happens.  They teach children to think.  Diversity was also very important for us.  I am happy that my daughters get to see people of color as their role models from our Head of School to teachers to students in upper grades.  Also, Park Day has a very active community of families of children of color, and this group provides my family and children with a nurturing circle, which I think is crucial for children of color who attend independent schools.  The different parent committees that work toward with staff in improving diversity and cultural competency and the Families of Children of Color affinity group are part of the reason why we also chose Park Day.  I think that their existence is really a testament of the school's commitment to their vision of social justice.  I was very driven by these groups and they made me want to join the community.  In addition, Park Day has a beautiful campus and we also wanted to provide our children with a school experience that can make them feel inspired and offer them an opportunity to be children and be outdoors.  Our children have participated in the After School Activities Program and though the school offers different great classes, we decided to not enroll our children in any of them so they could have some much needed free, unstructured time to again give them the space to just be children and get busy in the beautiful outdoor area.  Best, Happy Park Day parent. 

        Have you made your decision yet?  My daughter is starting kindergarten at St. Paul's this fall.  Would love to connect with you if your child will be going to St. Paul's as well!

      1. Hello wise community.

        We've got middle school coming up in a year and a half, and are strongly considering either the Academy of Alameda or Park Day School.

        We'd love to hear from parents with (ideally middle-school aged) kids at both schools. We want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly (if any). For context, our child is on the introverted side, has a creative mind, reads avidly, finds great joy and learning from doing art and engineering projects, and is a kind, sweet but anxious kid who we'd like to see learn to speak up and stand up for himself while broadening social relationships. 

        We understand that Park Day has, in the past year or 2, undergone a big transition of staff and administration. How has this impacted current students & families? Has the quality or direction of education been affected as a result? Also, how would current families describe the school culture, especially when considering families? If your child(ren) entered PDS in middle school, how was their transition? Did they feel accepted by kids who had been there for years, or was it hard to 'break in' due to cliques or other challenges?

        We hear nothing but great things about AoA and were impressed at the recent Info Night. Does the school really walk their talk, because it sure ticked off a lot of boxes for me (as an educator) as a place where I think my son could thrive. 

        Thanks for any and all insights! Alameda Parent

        Our child is in 8th grade at Park Day. The transition into PDS at middle school went quite well. But I have to be honest that I've been disappointed since then. The past 2.5 years have been full of staff departures, turnover, inexplicable drama. We've stayed because our child has formed good friendships and is happy.

        People seem to like the new head of school, and things seem more stable now (how could they be less stable??), but we will not be sad to leave after graduation. Not bitter, but not in the least sentimental.

        Your child sounds like the perfect Academy student.  Not the Academy of Alameda, but the Academy School in Berkeley,

        The Academy has been around since 1969, and since undergoing some changes a few years ago, it is once again thriving and continuing to grow.  It has been a wonderful middle school for our brainy, project-oriented, child who started off somewhat socially-awkward and now in the 8th grade, has blossomed into a confident, socially adept and thoughtful young man ready to take on the world.  The recipe for success?  The small-size classes (10-12); low-turnover of staff; outstanding teachers who are both challenging and nurturing (a difficult combo to achieve); engaging curriculum including specialist classes 3-4x/wk in science, language, art, and music from kindergarten up.  There is no danger of any child slipping through the cracks.  Each child is encouraged to develop his/her own voice and taught to speak up for themselves. Students become part of a strong cohort and build solid long-term relationships.  Our son, who had problems making friends early on, has made friends for life.  Additionally, because this is a smaller school (K-8/100 students), the relationship between the middle (upper) school and the elementary (lower) school is loving and familial.  There is no stigma of mixed ages playing together.  Older kids are protective and are looked up to by the younger ones.  Bullying is non-existent.  Cliques are rare. The families are welcoming, diverse and down-to-earth. Truly, I have never seen a community like this.

        The Head of School, John Lynch, is not only a former parent, but is a long-time teacher at the school.  As a former college professor, he chose to work specifically with this age group because he understands them so well and partners with parents to help navigate these tough middle school years.  He is an extraordinary teacher and role model.  He expects a lot from his students and they happily rise to the challenge. The other middle school teachers are also outstanding with unbelievable credentials.  These are well-respected teachers who develop great relationships with the kids, and whom we are grateful to have during these formative years. 

        We are preparing ourselves for the heartbreak in leaving The Academy after graduation.  

        We have a 5th and 8th grader at Park Day who have been there throughout elementary school.  It is true for us that the previous 2 years the middle school has had a ton of teacher and administration turn-over, leading to instability and changes that negatively affected the students and made for an atypical Park Day experience.  However, I have to say that things have changed dramatically this year, and we've decided to send our 5th grader to middle school there. The new Head of School has been excellent, the interim Middle School Director has made a positive impact, and very quickly they have established a very new tone.  There has been no turnover in teachers this year, who are very solid.  The school is hiring a new Middle School Director for next year, so we don't know who that will be yet, but we have confidence that this team will choose well. (Ask me about this next year.)  We would not send our younger kid into 6th grade unless we felt really good about this program, which we do.  I would say that the Park Day school culture among families is very warm, involved, and social-justice-aware.  There are always a lot of new kids in 6th grade, and usually I hear that new kids generally can integrate easily.  Feel free to get in touch with me directly if you have more questions.

        Hello There,

        I saw your post and I would love to chime in with regards to my daughter's first year of middle school at Park Day.

        The transition to Middle School and to a new school has been very smooth sailing and fun to watch. My daughter is generally quiet by nature and can be shy, so we were worried about how well she would assimilate socially. I am glad to say that the students at Park Day have been so welcoming and inclusive. My daughter's feedback after her shadow visit was that everyone there is so kind. And what I've observed during our first year is that her cohorts are in general, all a very kind and loving bunch. From little things that they've demonstrated like birthday surprises to asking newcomers to join them at lunch to playing with their Kindergarten buddies during break, makes me believe that kindness is placed in high emphasis at Park Day.

        Since I wasn't here the year before, I can't speak with regards to the transition within the administration and staff. I do know that the two main 6th grade teachers are beloved and have been at Park Day for some time. My daughter enjoys her time with both of them and I feel they have been instrumental in helping her find her voice and sparking her curiosity. Over the course of this year, I've also enjoyed seeing my daughter, generally quiet, speak up for herself and question things that she doesn't find right. It's so awesome to witness her path to self-advocacy! Classroom focus seems to be on the depth of knowledge acquisition rather than the breadth which I feel really ties in with the philosophy of nurturing the love of learning.Overall, I am very satisfied my daughter's learning progress, knowing that Park Day isn't just preparing her for High School or College but for life. I know this sounds cheesy but often times, I find that too many schools emphasize on how to best prepare kids for high school or college that they forget that learning is a continuing journey that lasts, hopefully, throughout life.

        So far, the family community has been very welcoming. There have been a few social opportunities hosted by the school for families to get together. And several parents have also reached out to arrange for play dates, making our family feel really welcome.

        We are very happy here at Park Day but more importantly, my daughter is thriving and cannot wait to go to school every morning. Plus, Mini Maker Faire!

        Hope this helps some. Finding a school that's a right fit can be tough. I wish you well, whichever school you decide to choose for your son. 

        Our child has had a great transition from public elementary school to Park Day for his middle school. The school has been very welcoming and our child has made friends with all kinds of kids. The academics are solid in their approach: through questioning and actually thinking about possibilities, rather than simply putting down "correct" answers, Park Day is a school that truly honors the development of critical thinking, not just the "right answers". 

        Overall the curriculum is multi-faceted and fun but rigorous.  

        True, some changes have happened at the school, but that happens at every school. Park Day has a lot to offer for students of many kinds. We are quite happy with the middle school and feel our child is making great connections in thinking, socializing and questioning the way things are.   

        We have a son who entered Park Day School in the 6th grade and is now in 7th grade. We were happy that he was able to attend Park Day as that was the top school on our list. He is a reasonably social kid, but somewhat shy, and by the 2nd day he told me he had already made “two best friends”. He had come from a very good Oakland public school. One thing he said that impressed me early on was his surprise at the reaction he got when missing a shot while playing basketball at recess. “The kids all said ‘nice try’, you’ll make it next time” as opposed to the typical response he would have received in his old school. In other words, the philosophy of “WE ALL SUCCEED TOGETHER” permeates the Park Day social and academic environment.

        Recently a new student joined the school in the 7th grade. He would probably be considered to be extremely shy. I saw him on the first day of school, keeping to himself and being fairly reclusive. At the time of writing this review, he is now playing on the basketball team, played on the flag football team in the fall, and has opened up so much socially it’s hard to believe it’s the same kid. I’m sure this is a result of the non-judgmental and supportive attitude which is what Park Day School is all about.

        Academically, the school is first class, as you can see by their High School entrance acceptance rate. In particular the Spanish program is amazing, culminating in the 8th grade class trip to Mexico. As far the the things that need improving at the school, I would say the middle school music and drama could be emphasized a bit more, although the good thing about Park Day is that the staff are very responsive to parent suggestions, so these areas could easily be enhanced if the parents made that a primary focus. Our son takes private music lessons outside the school which works out fine for him.

        As parents, we were a bit concerned about being able to integrate with the parent community, realizing that most of the kids had been attending Park Day since kindergarten. This proved not be the case at all, and within a short time we felt as though we had been part of the community all along.

        Good luck with your decision and I hope this gives you some idea of the true value of a Park Day School education.

        Our son entered Park Day at 6th grade this year and he's had a very good experience. He was hesitant at first because most of his Washington elementary school friends were going to Willard or King, but he has found a great new group of friends, who have been encouraging him to expand his comfort zone. The teachers have been caring and conscientious. We have heard about various issues from earlier years, but that has not been our experience. As an earlier post indicates, the new head of school has set a good tone and the school seems to be pulling together. That's not to say every class or every experience is perfect, but the teachers and staff seem to be pulling together and our son is thriving. 

      2. Hi Parents,

        I have a first grader and am considering moving him to Park Day School in the fall.  I love everything I have learned about the school so far and have a feeling it would be a great fit for him and for our family. He's a fabulous kid - sweet, funny, athletic, social, curious, active, and eager to learn and actively engage in everything related to school (and life!).  However, new environments are difficult for him and it takes him time to feel safe/comfortable in an unfamiliar place with people he doesn't know.  The thing that is usually most helpful to him when this challenge arises is having an adult with whom he feels connected.  I'm wondering - does anyone have input about the 2nd grade teachers at Park Day School and their ability to handle this situation skillfully?  Are they open to giving a new student some extra time and attention...perhaps meeting with him during the week before school starts, etc?  And can anyone comment about the current first grade cohort of kids...will they be welcoming?  Are there other active boys who will make it easy for him to integrate socially?  Thanks for any feedback you have!  One other issue - we live in North Berkeley.  Are there other families with children in first grade who live in North Berkeley (or anywhere in Berkeley)?  My partner and I both work so the logistics of getting our son to Park feel a little daunting...a carpool would help.  I'd be very grateful to hear any thoughts folks have to share about Park Day School and the issues I've mentioned.  Thanks!

        Hi there--

        I'm a parent of a current first grader at Park Day, and can tell you we'd love to have you! Your description of your son makes him sound a lot like mine-- active, athletic, goofy at times, but also thoughtful and sensitive. I can't speak to the second grade teachers, and hope that someone who can will respond to that question. But based on every other adult I've encountered at PDS, I'm confident in saying that there would be no shortage of adults invested in making him feel welcome and at home. It's a place where kids' emotional well-being is a priority. My son can be shy in new settings too, and the transition to PDS (as a kindergartener) was remarkably easy. One of the things that helped---and that might be relevant to your logistical issues---was having him in the After School program, where it's quite common to find him sweaty and red-faced, playing basketball or gaga ball with a bunch of older kids (and not in any hurry to come home). They also get connected to big kids through class reading buddies and other activities. When he's walking around campus and sees his big kid friends, he shouts hello to them and (instead of dismissing him as some overeager little kid) they reciprocate.  It makes him light up. I think it's contributed a lot to his sense of security and community to have not just adults but also big kids looking out for him. The first grade class this year is full of sweet and curious kids, all with different interests and strengths, but all learning (along with top-notch academics) how to be inclusive, how to be allies, how to use their voices to make their communities better. I'm sure they'd be welcoming. Good luck! 

        Parent a Sporty Park Day Kid

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      We applied after the deadline for middle school at Park Day School.  They had a lots of qualified applicants, but still had an opening as they give considerable consideration to class/group match/balance.  Luckily for us, it was a match for my daughter.  Staff at Park Day are very open, friendly, transparent and approachable.  You can ask the Josie Shapiro, the Admission Officer, and she will answer your questions.


      While I can't draw comparisons between the schools you are considering, I can share my experience as a new Park Day parent whose daughter joined this year as a 6th grade student. I have really appreciated Park Day's approach to learning. A recent example includes a humanities project in which the students had an opportunity to demonstrate their learning through a project of their choosing. My daughter used the innovation studio to create a wooden tree sculpture with LED lights and talked through how her project illuminated themes in the book around fairness and the fundamental right to express oneself freely. Another memorable project was a student who sewed a dress. I love how students are able to deepen their learning in ways that resonate most with them and utilize their interests/talents (i.e. sewing) or learn a new skill (i.e. using a power saw) in doing so. It is experiences like these, in my opinion, that are the building blocks for growing lifelong learners. 

      Best of luck in your search!


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

      Did it live up to everything that was advertised?

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

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

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


      Our 6th grader started at Park Day this last year and it has been a great fit.  I can’t speak to the other two schools, but can share our experience at PDS.  

      After a few years in a large OUSD school, we moved to a small private school for the last few years of elementary school and saw him thrive.  With that in mind, finding a school with a strong sense of community was important for our middle school search.  

      Nearly a year into PDS, both parents and our kid would say it has been a good fit.  He entered not knowing anyone, and is a quiet, reserved kid.  Entering new spaces for him is never easy.   Through advisory, clubs, and other avenues, Park Day seems to do a good job of fostering a sense of community among students, and our son now has a group of friends he is excited to see each day.

      Academically he has always been a student who has done what is expected of him (and perhaps coast), and so finding a place engages him has been important.  He is engaged in all his classes, and we have seen him gain incredible confidence.  One of the things Park Day stresses is having students take ownership over their own learning, and we see this as he advocates for himself, speaks up in class, and takes on new challenges.  For a quiet, reserved kid, these are an indication of how much the teachers work to foster a community where students feel safe.  

      Overall, as new parents to Park Day, we have been very happy with the academics, and adult/student community.  Park Day has been the right move for our family.


      Hi there!

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

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

      What we’ve experienced:

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

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

      Other positives:

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

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

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

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

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

      I wish you all the best!


      Hey there!

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


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


      My child graduated from Park Day last year, and goes to an independent high school in the East Bay with students from all these schools. The high school is known for having a strong academic curriculum, and I asked my child if there were any trends from the different schools in terms of what students were like. From the teen vantage point – and my child has good friends from these three schools in her 9th grade class –  all the kids are nice, friendly, and work hard. Paths have crossed in chorus, drama, Latin class, and of course, just as part of the regular school day. When I asked what my child thought was special about Park Day, she mentioned that Park Day is really accepting of different identities, that the teachers are nice and supportive, and that it feels like a community. For her, top of mind were not the things we loved as parents – the curriculum, the projects, the strong Social Justice through line, the warmth of the administration and our trust in them, the opportunity to share passions and identity through the student podcast, etc. What it boiled down to for her is: “I was so comfortable there, and that’s amazing to have especially at school.” I can imagine what a hard choice this is if you and your child like all three schools equally. Wishing you happiness as you decide, I don’t think you can go wrong.



      We have a current 7th grader at Park and a high school student that went there for middle school.  BPC was also a school we had applied to and really loved.  At the end of the day our son chose Park Day and it has exceeded all of our expectations. The faculty and administration could not be more welcoming and accommodating to new families. The head of school is incredible.  She stands at the front of the school each morning and greets the students and talks with parents.  I’m not sure If this is commonplace at other middle schools but it points to the community that is created there starting at the very top.  I've seen her at performances, games and school social events. She always shows up for the kids. The entire administration is excellent and very responsive and open. Everyone, from the admissions office to the high school transition specialist to the head of DEI goes the extra mile. Not because it's their job but because they truly care and are passionate about what they do and the environment they have cultivated. The entire faculty and staff at PDS lead with kindness, compassion and inclusivity.

      Although Park doesn't have "letter grades" there is a portal you can check that will give you percent grades for core classes.  The drama, art and music classes are great! My older son is a theater kid.  He loved drama at Park and the teacher.  I was  always so impressed with how much he got out of it, especially since he does a lot of theater outside of school. The program is great and they are constantly going on field trips and outings to see shows. That year they did A Midsummer Night's Dream and put on a  cabaret at the Aurora theater in Berkeley. The music and art programs are also very strong!

      Park Day does a great job of exposing kids to new and unique experiences.  They have so many clubs that it would be hard not to find something that sparks an interest. Even if the interest is fleeting, having exposure to all of them is really powerful and helps kids learn what their interests are in a safe, unintimidating environment.  Their affinity groups also offer another level of belonging and are particularly strong.

      It sounds like your child will thrive at any of these schools but I will say that Park Day really respects and trusts their students' voices which is very empowering. They put an emphasis on compassion, empathy, community, equity, and collaboration in a way I don't think other schools do.


      We love Park Day! Our child started at Park Day in 6th grade after studying K-5 at another independent school in Oakland. A few highlights include:
      ADMISSIONS: everything about the process was top notch. Welcoming and friendly communication at every step.
      ORENTATION: Our assigned buddy family was awesome and made all of us feel welcome and prepared. The student orientation and tour day was amazing!
      ACADEMICS: The 6th grade teaching team is by far the strongest cohort of teachers our child has ever had. They are all gifted educators, creative, kind, and absolutely dedicated to their craft. The material is engaging and challenging, but accessible because students have the tools and support they need to succeed.
      SOCIAL/EMOTIONAL: Park Day is committed to making kids feel welcome and safe as they explore, embrace, and express their identities. We love that Park Day intentionally fosters a kind and inclusive community that celebrates every student's uniqueness.
      OVERALL: Five stars. We are so grateful to be part of the Park Day community.

      Our family highly recommends Park Day! Our  3rd grader and 6th grader switched from OUSD to Park Day this fall and we have all been thrilled with the school. Socially the kids adapted very quickly, making friends and feeling included very quickly. The social justice emphasis was a real selling point for us and is one of my favorite aspects of the school. Every teacher, administrator, and staff member is invested in our children’s all-around well-being and truly cares about them. I didn’t realize how meaningful the emphasis on social-emotional well-being would be, but especially as our 6th grader hurdles toward preadolescence, the administrations wisdom and loving guidance means more than I imagined. Academically our children are more engaged and more challenged than they were in OUSD, without feeling competitive or overly rigorous. The whole community has been welcoming, and in particular as a family with queer parents and children of color, we appreciate the diversity and how much it is valued at the school. For a progressive family looking for a school that will feel like family, you can’t ask for more than Park Day.

      My daughter started Park Day  School  this past  fall as a middle schooler and we couldn’t be happier.  The leadership is phenomenal, the community of parents and students is magical, and the academics are robust and just challenging enough. The school does a great job of making learning fun and relevant.  My daughter who has always hated math now says math is her favorite subject, trust me this  is mind-blowing!

      My daughter came from OUSD so the start of school was pretty scary for her. But literally in a matter of 1 1/2weeks she formed close friendships that are still going strong today. She truly seems happy. I feel very blessed that my daughter has the opportunity to attend such a wonderful school.

      My daughter started at PDS in Kindergarten this year. Park Day was the only private school we applied to because our assigned OUSD option is excellent. Every day I am glad we chose PDS. 

      The PDS community is warm and open towards kids, parents, and extended family. It is small enough to be sincerely personal and is actually diverse. The aftercare is stimulating and fun for kids. The campus is gorgeous and the teachers seem happy to be there. My mind is at peace when my daughter is at school because I know she is being nurtured in a well-resourced environment. 

      Our daughter joined Park Day in 4th grade and was whole-heartedly embraced by the community. It’s everything we could have hoped for. Communicative staff, well-resourced classrooms, beautiful facilities and grounds, engaging curriculum, and supportive community. Our child is happy and loves learning again!

      My daughter went to middle school at Park Day, not having gone to elementary school there.  She also has anxiety and mild ADHD, and loved creative writing (poetry).  While Park Day didn't have clubs, as a school at large, and all the classes were focused on socio-political issues, guiding the students to be active thinkers and active community members.  It is also project based.  It gives fantastic attention to socio-emotional development as a standard for all the kids, and was a very happy place for her.  It prepares students excellently for whatever the range of HS they attend after that (many go onto elite private schools, and some to public schools).  


      It sounds like you are making a thoughtful search with good options all around. There is absolutely something to be said for staying put at a school where your child feels content. And, it’s exciting to take the time to explore other options if you have that ability, to help you confirm your best Middle School path. 

      Our kids went to PDS (loved!) and we moved over to Head Royce at Middle School (also loved!). Our kids were looking for expanded language options which became a driving consideration and our kids have really developed a passion for their pursued languages. We as parents also liked the idea that at HRS we might not need to consider looking/applying for High School if we decided to stay in the independent school world. 

      PDS is such a loving and kind community. As noted, we didn’t stay for MS, but after a period of interim leadership, a vibrant and well-lauded permanent admin team came on and we heard so many good things about the team and the continued positive impacts at the school.

      At HRS, our kids were welcomed by the most amazing 6th grade team of teachers. They are exceptional and rarely a week goes by still without us making reference to at least one of their 6th grade team. There are lots of options for clubs at HRS and they are flourishing post-Covid. Have a passion that’s not covered yet? Find a couple other interested students and you’re very, very likely to have a faculty member jump on board. Sports is low-key but fun at the MS level. We were *never* the sport parents, and yet now both my kids are on an upper school team that they LOVE…who knew, seriously? The teams feel social and accessible and we never thought that would be a big something and yet it’s been a great part for the kids. The art faculty are also wonderful and there are vibrant music, drama and dance opportunities (club, audition or class) in MS. 

      I think your child is in good company regarding anxiety. I don’t know that many kids these days that came through the pandemic completely centered and grounded. Listen out for how schools are talking about their emotional support for kids, and is it specific to the modern day middle school kid? Both schools have Learning Specialists that might be available to give you a sense of the supported landscape of neurodiversity at their respective schools. 

      You have a good selection of schools, and your child seems happy currently. That’s a great spot to be in. Listen to what the schools are telling you. It’s shiny and polished, but they will still tell you who they are. Get a sense of the parent body that’s also looking at the school. Everyone should be on good behavior, but you will also get a sense of what does the family makeup feel like landing at that particular school. 

      Best of luck!


      I am a current Park Day parent. My son joined the community in 4th grade and is now in 7th. Our experience at PDS has been fantastic! We were there during the last year of the previous head of school and have been there the entire time the new Head of School has been in her position. Angela is a fantastic leader. The administration came together to make the transition as seamless as possible (even in the midst of Covid) and I feel like she has been a fantastic leader and role model for our school community. She definitely doesn't feel "new" anymore as this is her third year and she is fully engrained in the community. 

      In terms of the school overall, our family has been very happy with our experience. My son was dealing with some social-emotional challenge when he came to the school and has absolutely blossomed while being there. The faculty is so thoughtful and compassionate, I truly could not have dreamt of a better place for him. On top of that he loves going to school and truly enjoys what he is learning. PDS is all about teaching kids to love learning and they have really done that for my son. He comes home excited about what he's learning in nearly every subject and is engaged with his teachers. When he started at the school he was struggling in some subjects and not feeling confident, but over his time at Park Day he has grown into a strong and confident student. He is very athletic and has been very happy with their offerings of sports throughout the year. They have multiple sports every season and really focus on teaching the kids how to play the game, having fun, and good sportsmanship. They definitely don't always win, but the kids always look like they're having a great time and building lasting friendships. He also loves art and music and has been enjoying the art/music/drama rotation that the middle school provides. 

      I really can't think of much that could be improved at Park Day in our experience. Whenever we have had challenges, they have been addressed quickly and fairly. I have never had any complaints and am super grateful to be a part of the community. Good luck in your decision!


      Hey there. First, let me just say that you can't really go wrong here.  Both these schools provide a thoughtful, kind, welcoming environment where children can learn, grow and thrive.  

      We are Park Day parents, and both our kids have had a wonderful experience.  Our 2 children are very different, but they've both thrived - thanks to fantastic teachers and a really magical learning environment.  

      Here's my take...


      • Terrific teaching. I can't say enough good things about the teaching at Park Day. Really experienced, thoughtful, skilled instructors who vary their approach to suit each learner's needs, aptitudes and challenges.  For me, this - above all else - is what has made Park Day an outstanding experience for our family. 
      • Math Instruction - Here's another one I wasn't expecting.  Park Day's model for teaching math is focused on helping young learners actually understand the conceptual underpinnings of math.  Each year, Park Day has a math night, where instructors explain how they teach.  It's definitely worth attending.   Most of us experienced a very different kind of math instruction as kids. Some of us (me, for instance) managed to figure it out and maybe even excel. But many others didn't.  Our struggles, however, weren't necessarily a reflection of our actual potential.  Instead, they were the result of misguided pedagogy - teaching that didn't actually help us truly understand what we were doing. You can't build on a bad foundation. Park Day's approach to math is different. Today, both of our kids are doing pretty advanced stuff - well beyond the sort of work that either my spouse or I were doing at their age -- and they actually get it.  
      • Park Day's campus - The campus is magical, and it really shapes the school experience.  
      • Gardening Class - Kids throughout lower school take part in Park Day's gardening program. It's a place where kids get to experience science out in the real world, connect to nature in a very hands-on way, experience what it means to grow and care for living things and how to learn and live alongside them.  That probably sounds pretty mushy, but it's true. :-) Another wonderful surprise.
      • School Leadership - Angela Taylor came on board 2 years ago, and she's been fantastic.  Jules and Karen, the Middle School and Lower Schools heads are terrific too.  We've got really strong, experienced leaders who are helping to sustain and further grow a first-rate education experience while staying true to Park Day's founding ideals.  
      • Racial, Ethnic, Religious and Economic Diversity - private schools really struggle to reflect the communities in which they're located. Park Day genuinely wants to be a place that reflects all of Oakland. And as far as private schools go, I think it's doing a pretty good job (which is not to say we're there yet). There's lots still to be done, but the school community is serious about it.    


      I'm almost at my word limit, so going to keep this short...

      • Endowment - we wish the school had more money, sothat it could offer more financial aid and live its values more fully.  
      • Sports - the school is actively growing its program, but it's a work in progress.

      That's it! Good luck!



      Hi! I am a current PDS parent (Kindergarten). I don't have any insight into the differences between the schools, but happy to share my experience and how we landed at Park Day School. I would say that what you see is what you get at Park Day. The staff and leadership is incredibly dedicated to the school, the community, and ongoing growth as an institution. The enrichment classes are in-depth, meaningful, and valued. For our kid, the class/grade size is just right. It offers the opportunity for the teachers to really get to know each kid, as well as offering a large enough student body to spark interests and find connections. And, as a household with two working parents, we really appreciate the thought put in to developing morning and after school care. Our kid loves staying on the beautiful campus after school each day, and has enjoyed enrichment classes in their after school program as well (soccer skills/drills, kids in motion). It is a wonderful community of parents, educators, and kids.


      Hi there

      I'm a current Park Day parent.  I think it's always important to look at what makes the most sense for your family. When we were applying I had a whole point system where I assigned value to categories based on what was important to us. So like financial aid offering was most important followed by mission and commute.  It helped me to really ensure that I was basing the decision on what was actually important and not getting swayed by things like a beautiful campus. 

      All that being said, we ultimately chose PD over Aurora.  For me it was the leadership at PD that really stood out to me. The Director makes herself available to parents and students. She listens and problem solves with our family when it is necessary and takes our suggestions seriously. I have always felt like she is a partner in my child's education and that means a lot to me. 
      I also really enjoy the community at PD.  The families in our grade seem to really enjoy one another and that was something that was really important to me when I selected a place to send my son for the next 8 years. Though we are early in our child's education, I have been really impressed with the children in the middle school.  They are kind and helpful and seem to really enjoy themselves. I have often seen many of them volunteering at admissions events and I love to listen to them tell families what they love about PD.

      I wish you all the best on your decision!


      In such a short time, Park Day has been a truly amazing experience for our family. Having moved to Oakland recently from a new city, not only was Oakland new to us, but so was Park Day and the way our son has transitioned with such ease has been a joy for us when juggling such a big move.

      Our son has a smile every day at drop off and pick up, and has taken to the ethos and environment like he’s been here for years. Park Day really fosters a sense of community and family, and again being new to the city this has been important in helping our family adjust. Something we’re extremely grateful for. The teachers and staff are amazing, kind and engaged. Watching our son interact not only with children in his own class and grade but across the school, seeing how the older children respond and communicate to the younger kids completely reassures a parent when wanting to understand whether your child is in the right environment to develop as a person. The range of activities, both during the day and for aftercare offer the students a real diversity of options and ways to try new things. The communication, attention to care and detail throughout the school makes you feel reassured as a parent.

      We feel so fortunate to be part of the Park Day community and for our son to have this learning and developmental experience. When I asked my son if he liked school he said “no Mummy I don’t like it, I LOVE it!” which sums up how I feel as a parent too. We can’t wait for our youngest to join his older brother there in a couple of years!!

      My daughter started Park Day School last fall as a 6th grader and she is thrilled by her experience. She has been so immediately welcomed, supported and embraced by this remarkable community, and has already made treasured friends. She is finding the academics to be riveting, challenging and deeply relevant. Her teachers are passionate and engaging, and have expanded her worldview with interconnected and dynamically expressed courses. She loves the aware, diverse, progressive nature of the community and feels safe to be her true self, which is a remarkable feat in middle school. Park Day feels like true haven—sometimes we can’t believe how wonderful it is to be part of this phenomenal school.    

      Our son started Park Day in 7th grade (an awkward time to make a school change).  He was nervous and unsure, but has ended up thrilled with Park Day.  He is academically engaged and encouraged, feels included, was very welcomed and prepared by the school and community.  The teachers are committed, enthusiastic, and thoughtful about their subjects and care about connecting with students.  The campus is beautiful and after school sports have been great for him.  Park Day practices its values (not an easy feat!) and our son takes appreciative note of that.  When issues arise, the teachers/staff/administration is very responsive and thoughtful.  We are grateful to have made the change to Park Day School.

      We transferred our son to Park Day for fourth grade, and we have been very happy with his experience thus far. The school helped so much with his transition by making sure he felt included from the beginning. He had a late summer birthday so all the students worked on a padlet for him based on his interests. One of the things we hoped was that our son would be able to bring his interests to the school, which has definitely happened because the teachers make space for students to talk about themselves with their peers. 

      There are also so many amazing specialty classes taught by highly skilled teachers: Spanish, music, art, workshop, gardening, PE, and podcast club. He talks to us so much more about school because he is engaged in what he is doing, such as making hash browns in gardening class, creating a field-o-scope in his workshop class to study organisms, and learning to play the recorder. As a lifelong educator, I am very pleased to see my son and his classmates participate in lots of hands-on projects in his core class, such as creating a timeline of California history starting with the indigenous people of this area and writing an expository essay about three artifacts that he cares about. My son loves the hot lunch program, which has exposed him to lots of different food and helped him become a more adventurous eater.

      Our daughter transferred to Park Day as a first grader and we couldn’t be happier with our decision to enroll there. The transition was smooth and she is really happy to go to school every day. She feels very much a part of the community, loves her fourth-grade reading buddy (the lower grade kids are paired with reading buddies in higher elementary grades and they read together on Fridays) and comes home with cool projects she has worked on at school. On the parent side, we have found the partnership we were looking for in her education: the teachers know her well and understand where she needs to grow and develop. The social-emotional learning is very much a part of the day to day life of the classroom and there is also a good amount of tailoring to where kids are academically. The beautiful campus is really the cherry on top of what is a really great school and community.

      Archived Q&A and Reviews

      Feedback on Park Day School for a Gifted Child?

      May 2016

      Hi, Our son is in kindergarten and we've learned recently that he is gifted/an advanced learner (his teachers brought this to our attention and recommended that we get him tested as he is way ahead of his peers, so we did). He is at a very academic school now, but it is also a pressure cooker (not so much in K, but definitely by 2nd, 3rd grade), and my son does not respond well to a competitive academic environment - he already is stressed out in K! We do not want to commute to one of the ''gifted'' schools in Marin or down the Peninsula. Friends have recommended Park Day School to us as a place in the East Bay that is academically rigorous and also more of a loving/less competitive place. I'd love to get some feedback directly from Park Day parents on this. If we switch schools, we want to make sure that my son is both sufficiently challenged (he gets bored easily) and in a non-competitive academic environment. Also, if anyone has other recommendations for schools in the East Bay or San Francisco for an advanced learner, that would be much appreciated. Thank you! LB

      We have had a wonderful experience at PDS for our 3 children, one of whom is very academic (almost perfect memory, amazing writer, excellent with math, music, art, super social, but a bit anxious). While she excells at all her academics, she tends to obsess about school work. Park has been the perfect place for her. The teachers have worked well to allow her driven nature to flourish but not take over her academic life. I think it is really the perfect place for a gifted child as they are seemlessly incorporated into the mix but not surrounded by intensely competitive children. The children work well together and their talents are recognized, enhanced, and allowed to push them forward in all good ways. Good luck with your decision. anon

      My boys have both attended Park Day. My eldest son started in middle school, coming from public school. My youngest is now finishing third grade after starting in kindergarten. We have seen a good deal of the school over the past five years, enough to know that Park Day is a unique community that melds strong academic challenges with a caring and supportive environment. Both kids have thrived academically. They are usually seen as ''2e'' kids, due to their ADHD and hyper intellects. We appreciate the school’s careful partnering with us to explore their learning gifts and challenges, particularly in math, science, music and visual arts. The ''maker mentality'' has helped deepen their framework for tinkering. My boys learned to read at different rates so it’s been interesting to see how they have grown into good readers and writers. Hands-on-learning and a rigorous integration of 21st century skills are evident across the grade levels. More importantly, the boys got a load of thoughtful attention to social-emotional development, an area often delayed in precocious kids. They are kinder friends, collaborators and leaders as result. Park Day Proud

      We chose Park Day for our son who was, by kindergarten, already reading well above his grade level--thick chapter books and so on. He was also comfortable with numbers and addition. Most of the other kids at that age, in any school we visited were still learning letters and number sequences, as is, I believe, developmentally right on target. I recognize that his precociousness is due to a blend of early mentoring in these areas and his own interest (which led to a ridiculous amount of self-motivated practice, etc.). I don't personally buy into the ''gifted'' mindset--but, one way or the other, he definitely got an early jump on academics. Skipping grades seems like it invites disaster for emotional development. Yet bored kids are supposedly more likely to act out. I began to wonder if had done a disservice to my son by encouraging his early academic fluency...

      Park Day put me at ease. Instead of pulling my son to the side to give him special attention (emotionally charged with peers, right?), Park's approach is to give children projects that have no ceiling--that is, the kids have a baseline of what is expected of them, but from there can take off with the projects as much as they want. Homework has been tailored to keep challenging him--for example, in the first grade he learned to use the dictionary and wrote vocabulary sentences for words he came across in his reading.

      While my son started out advanced from a certain perspective, he also wasn't particularly driven to do his best--his quick one-off was already so good. Having the assignments come easily wasn't helping his development of grit. Park again had a solution in their philosophy of encouraging students to choose the ''Just Right'' level of work from, say, a selection of worksheets. This became the focus of his learning early on--finding the boundary of his knowledge and learning to push himself beyond it. My wish for him is for him to take responsibility for his own learning, to learn to savor a challenge, and to keep his spark of joy burning bright. Park Day has proven to be a wonderful ally. Park Day Parent

      Info. re: the search for a new head of Park Day?

      March 2016

      My son was admitted to kindergarten at Park Day School, which we are thrilled about. We loved the school, the community, the campus, etc., and we accepted the spot for our son. I know that Park Day is looking for a new permanent head of school to replace the current interim head of school, Jon Kidder. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but another friend was asking me if I was worried about who the next leader will be, and I realized that I really don’t have much information about it. The school is being very transparent about the process, but I’d love to hear from other current Park Day families about what insights they may have about a new head of school and what direction the school is heading in. And if you have any other comments about the school, particularly about how the school is for an energetic boy who is an advanced learner in some subject areas, that would be most appreciated. Thank you! L

      Congrats! Welcome to Park Day! I have to say we’re still super happy at Park Day after 7 years here with 2 kids now in sixth & third. Yes, we are looking for a new Head of School, however you have to know the secret sauce at Park is our teachers. The teachers are the heart of the school - a true testament to that is that they are voting members of the board because we value their expertise, experience and leadership. We have had some recent retirements of long-term teachers, but the average tenure is still well over 10 years. All this to say I have every confidence that it will continue to be a hidden gem, supporting the social, emotional and intellectual growth of our kids beautifully in a learning environment that has kids loving learning, being good to each other, cherishing the diversity of our community, and being wonderfully prepared for high school, college and life. My kids are happy and thriving - what more can you ask for? Victoria

      Park Day Progressive School- Academic Preparedness

      Jan 2016

      Hello -- we are strongly considering sending our daughter to Park Day School in Oakland and are seeking honest feedback from alums (or their families). I have no doubt the experience at Park Day is phenomenal, the reviews, the current parents we've spoken with, and word of mouth has all be of high praise. We think it would be an exceptional opportunity --- however, I have a few concerns.

      My questions are more for former students and/or their parents.

      1) Did Park Day prepare you well to transition on to ''more traditional'' curriculum in high schools and/or colleges? Did you feel prepared academically and how did you do?

      2) What about the transition in terms of socially and emotionally? One my concerns is that the highly compassionate, nurturing, individualized environment may not prepare students well for the tougher realities of the ''real world'' - cliques, bullies, large/anonymous campuses, or with less nurturing teachers (or future bosses) etc.

      Your honest feedback on the (after graduation) pros and cons of the Park Day experience are greatly welcome. Thank you!! Should we do it?

      To respond to your concern about a nurturing environment not preparing a child for the tougher reality of life, I can say that the opposite is true. I speak from 15 years of experience working in education, as a parent, and as someone who has spent a lot of time learning about and teaching other teachers and leaders about optimal learning conditions. The most ideal learning conditions are those in which a child (or adult) feels known and valued. The more you can do for a child when they are young to nurture them and help them feel a part of a strong community, the more you're building your child's resilience for future hardships. Early experiences of being a part of a caring community and being cared for emotionally and supported will absolutely help your child through rougher times to come. These are also the conditions in which your child's brain can grow and learn - being free from social and emotional worry allows you to fully engage in intellectual pursuits. Hope this helps! N

      Park Day alum here. I definitely understand your concerns. I sometimes wonder if Park's ''everybody wins'' mantra made it harder for me to cope with real-world losses, though that could also stem from just being part of the somewhat coddled millennial generation. The other hard thing for me was going to school with so many wealthy kids, when my family was solidly middle-class (again, though, that would probably have happened at any private school).

      I didn't experience any setbacks in my later education. I remember being terrified when I started at a public middle school and knew I was being graded for the first time ever, but I did just fine. I ended up going to UC Berkeley and on to law school, and always loved school and got very good grades. Overall, I look back on my years at Park with great fondness and would love to send my own child there if I could afford it. Park Day Alumna

      Both of my kids thrived at Park Day School, in all ways -- but definitely academically. They transitioned easily to high school and one of them is now in college, while the other is a sophomore in high school. Both continue to benefit from the excellent academic background they obtained at PDS.

      We particularly explored this question when looking at schools: how well do PDS graduates do academically once they leave? We were reassured then, and our experience (including those of our many friends at PDS) has only confirmed this assurance. Not only were our kids well prepared for high school and beyond, but they entered these schools with a genuine enthusiasm and love of learning fostered and supported by PDS.

      If you are looking for a school with excellent academics, while maintaining a consistent focus on social, emotional, and creative growth -- look no further! C Cassel

      1) Did Park Day prepare you well to transition on to ''more traditional'' curriculum in high schools and/or colleges? Did you feel prepared academically and how did you do? My daughter Kyra went from 2nd - 8th grade at PDS. She's not at Lick Wilmerding HS in san francisco. I'm not sure Lick is ''more traditional'' but she has adjusted well. She placed in the more advanced math and the normal spanish program. Lick is an acadamecally very challenging school, probably the most in San Francisco. The work has been hard but Kyra has met the challenge. I feel she learned a kind of deep learning process, to go into a challenge not to get ''As'' but to learn the subject. I think that is the thing that PDS taught her well. She tries to figure out what there is to learn, not just the requirements.

      2) What about the transition in terms of socially and emotionally? One my concerns is that the highly compassionate, nurturing, individualized environment may not prepare students well for the tougher realities of the ''real world'' - cliques, bullies, large/anonymous campuses, or with less nurturing teachers (or future bosses) etc. Lick has its clicks as does any high school or middle school experience. Kyra is very much her own person. Not even super confident, but knows who she is. She simply decided what she's into. She likes that her and her crowd are eclectic, part nerd, part artist (both visual and drama), part sports but not that much. They have ambitions (her friends and her) but they also have their own thoughts, styles, strengths, etc and she gives space for those things while knowing her own tolerance. She's definitely not a ''follow the crowd'' person, but she's not a loner. I think PDS taught her that is ok and that is a real strength of hers.

      I strongly believe that PDS both nurtures and prepares kids for the kind of academic challenges they are ready for. A school that let her be herself but also pushed her to thing about what that self really means. I hope that helps and I hope you have a great experiences at PDS as we did. Paul W

      Oct 2015

      RE: Disappointed with Oakland public kindergarten experience

      I would encourage you to visit Park Day School in Oakland. From what you describe, I think you'll have a completely different experience at this fantastic private school. My kids have gone there for 7 years and we feel like it is totally worth going private for what our kids get there. Very project-based, small classes (ie half of what you mentioned), and a devotion to progressive education. I'd recommend reading Tom Little's book, ''Loving Learning'' to understand what progressive education means on a deep level, and hear how it's being accomplished at Park Day (the author was the exceptionally visionary, long-time Head of the school). At Park Day, the children's social/emotional development is just as important as other kinds of learning, and crowd control is not the issue. Blossoming minds and hearts is the focus. Best of luck in your search.

      March 2015

      RE: School for shy, gender fluid boy

      I've been a parent at Park Day for 6 years and I'm a therapist who works with gender-fluid children. Park Day is doing a fantastic job with gender over all with all kids, and specifically with gender-creative/non-conforming/fluid kids. There's a group for parents of gender-creative kids and if you ask Flo Hodes, the admissions director, she may be able to put you in touch with one of those families. All the staff are continually trained in their responsiveness to these kids, and how to create a open classroom without divisions or assumptions about gender, creating an atmosphere that is freeing for ALL kids. The school collaborates with Gender Spectrum, the leading organization that consults with schools on responsible approaches with gender (and actually founded and directed by Park Day parents). Kids at Park Day are all respected in their individuality, and differences are handled well with acknowledgement and celebration (when appropriate). Park Day has deep values in social justice and wellness of every child as a whole child, and, from what I observe, they are actively working to fulfill these intentions. The ''gentle boys'' in my son's class are his friends, they have many friends, and they are free to be the kind of kid they are. But you should probably hear the experience of those parents, so again, I'd encourage you to ask about this specifically with Flo or Jane. Best of luck!

      We were in your shoes last spring and we decided to enroll our son at Park Day and we couldn't be happier. After diligently visiting public and other progressive private schools PDS was our first choice for many reasons, definitely including its cutting edge reputation for welcoming diversity in all its forms - gender fluidity, race, ethnicity, family structure, socio-economic class, and more. Park Day has a strong focus on community and embracing diversity. Before school started, the K teachers offered to do a home visit with each family so that the teacher could get to know each student and family. As a result, on the first day of school our son's teacher was already a familiar, comfortable and friendly presence as he transitioned into the classroom. (We were expecting tears and sadness and instead he happily went with his teacher into the classroom without us.) My son STILL talks about how his teacher visited his house. There are 13 children in his K class and there is a big emphasis on building community and taking care of each other, learning about each other's similarities and differences and being kind and respectful citizens of the classroom and school communities as well as the outside world. Our son has made great progress in learning kindergarten academic and social skills, but most importantly he LOVES school. He gets to play on the awesome campus, be in the learning garden, build with natural materials in the Nature Zone, create in art, sing with gusto and joy about how, ''Mistakes are ok! Mistakes are ok! You can make them ten times a day!'' in music, and much, much more. The adults all know him, have a connection with him, and look out for him. My husband and I say to each other several times each week how glad we are that our son attends Park Day, especially when we talk to our friends whose children attend other schools. Park Day is truly a special place. couldn't be happier at Park Day

      Jan 2015

      RE: Reviews for Prospect Sierra or Park Day

      As parents of a 12-year old sixth grader (girl) and a six-year old first grader (boy),
      we think there are two very important perspectives to share about Park Day School. 

      The first is the commitment, rigor and professionalism the teachers bring to their
      craft. It takes dedication, imagination and skill to teach not just to the requirements
      and expectations of a certain grade level, but also to the individual needs, interests
      and possibilities of each child. The staff at Park Day does this beautifully. Our two
      children are very different in temperament and personality. But we have been gratified
      and grateful to see how Park Day has been just right for both of them. It's hard to see
      how dedicated the whole school is to EVERY child until you experience it first hand.
      Teachers meet all the time--with other teachers, administrators and learning
      specialists--to really understand your child, how she or he learns, and how the child
      can grow academically, socially and emotionally. This commitment to understanding and
      insight, coupled with an equal commitment to teaching excellence, is a remarkable gift
      to both children and parents. 

      The second perspective is about the warmth and welcoming spirit of the Park Day
      community. The staff takes time to get to know each family--by greeting parents and
      kids at drop-off and pick-up, hanging out with parents at the morning coffee cart,
      giving hugs to kids when they walk in the building. You really feel like you are part
      of a bigger community. The campus grounds also are inviting and reflect the wide range
      of activities that extend and enrich the regular classroom curriculum, whether in the
      many garden areas, the ''nature zone,'' play areas, sports field, or the new Innovation
      Workshop. The warmth isn't just nice. It reinforces the feeling of safety and community
      that are essential to an effective learning environment. 

      So if you are interested in school that is committed not just to teaching students but
      also to growing great young people, Park Day is a wonderful place to be.

      I have lots of wonderful things to say about Park Day School, but don't even know where

      to begin!  After preschool at Step One, we were looking for a truly whole-child,
      child-centered, progressive school, and we've totally found that at Park Day, a very
      smooth and like-minded transition from Step One. Our two kids have been there for 4-6
      years.  While academically top-notch, it also promotes the social-emotional growth of
      every child, emphasizing social justice on the most intimate to global levels,
      throughout the program. (In other words, how they characterize themselves is actually
      true.)  The teachers are top-rate, supported by a wonderful staff, and they care deeply
      about teaching, about every child, and about making a difference in the world.  If you
      can, take a tour during the school day and watch what's happening in the classrooms. 
      It is common for a teacher to use the spontaneous events that arise as teaching moments
      in a very real-life way. The themes of the year get echoed throughout the curriculum,
      including through art and music.  At the open houses, there are plenty of parents on
      hand to ask your specific questions to.  If you would like to speak with parents of
      children of color, or LGBTQ parents, or another specific situation, you can ask the
      admissions people to put you in touch with such a parent. It's a wonderful community,
      with lots of parent involvement. My kids feel held and loved and totally at home.
      Very Appreciative Park Day Parent

      Jan 2015

      Re: Renaissance or Park Day for elementary school?

      This is the 6th year I've been a Park Day parent, with 2 kids there. Do my kids like school, want to be there, feel engaged in the activities, feel loved? YES YES YES and ABSOLUTELY. It's been a wonderful experience for them. Both my kids, even my difficult-to-please tween, have loved their teachers deeply and have felt loved by them. They still drop by the classrooms of their old teachers whenever possible to give them hugs (the teachers always have time for a hug from an old student!). They feel their teachers, the staff, & the administration are all their allies whom they can, and do, bring their issues to. When my kids have had difficulties, the teachers have always called with an attitude of ''Let's figure out how we can help your child with this'', never an energy of, ''Your kid was disruptive today'' or ''Your child was a problem.'' They use ''Restorative Justice'' and other philosophies to work on problems. They truly are focused on the whole child, the social/emotional growth of every child, and they are highly skilled at fostering it. It's impressive and inspiring to be a part of it. When a more difficult issue arises, it is not unusual to have a meeting set up with the family and the Head of the lower or middle school, the teacher, the learning specialist, and the Head of the school, all putting their efforts together to improve the situation. Sometimes a special ally is also brought in when the family or the child needs that, too. We love Park Day and our kids love it. It's a wonderful community! A Park Day Parent

      We chose Park Day School for our eldest child at 6th grade. After a series of bad classroom practices at our local public school, he was unhappy. We were so impressed by the difference in him after switching to a caring and supportive environment. A year later, we enrolled our younger son at the start of kindergarten. Now in second grade, our youngest is also thriving, especially in mathematics, music and Spanish. We hear him singing world music in the shower. He recites poetry with great fanfare. He has taken an interest in gardening and cooking, part of the hands-on approaches that allow multiple layers of learning to occur. Most importantly, through mindfulness training, he has developed close friendships and a sense of empathy for people.

      Our sons face occasional rough patches due to attention, focusing and impulsivity issues related to ADHD. Park Day's learning specialists and administration partnered with us to nurture their talents and extinguish any sense of stigma kids with learning challenges sometimes face. Particularly in a climate where black and brown boys are inundated with negative messages about their success, our kids struggled to develop as learners. Yet at Park Day, they each have grown to enjoy rigorous academics.

      Admittedly, I have not heard much about the program at Renaissance and therefore cannot draw any comparisons. However, as a parent and educator, I do know that Park Day staff and teachers are very good at their jobs. Park Day Proud

      We have two active, energetic, and bright sons at Park Day School, and I can comment on the way that both teachers and administrators partner with both the students at PDS as well as the families that are part of the Park Day community. Both of my kids have felt ''held'' at Park, I would say that there is a real sense that all of the adult staff at the school ''get'' kids in a way that I think is somewhat unusual these days. It's a busy environment, with a ton going on, but probably the thread that connects all of the activity on campus is the great sense of respect that is conveyed to each child and a general joy that all the staff seem to take in seeing children learn. They take great pains at Park to actively nurture the love of learning and that creative spark in kids, making each child feel safe and content, and that definitely extends to the tone that administrators and teachers take when things do not go exactly as planned. One thing I love about the Lower School is that Karen Colaric, the Lower School Director, basically is known as ''problem solver'' by both parents and (more importantly) students at the school. When kids have a scuffle during recess, one of them inevitably will suggest that they should go ''talk to Karen'' about the situation because she is just that good at seeing kids for who they are, and helping them in a respectful and kind way to resolve differences or misunderstandings. Similarly, an email or a phone call will follow to parents informing them (again in a very non-judgmental way) that there was a situation at school that involved your child and this is how it was handled. This collaborative and respectful tone extends into the classroom. Our younger son had some difficulties with transitioning into kindergarten and the teacher (Simrita) went out of her way to set up conferences with us (the first one was an hour) and remain engaged via email and by phone as he became more comfortable in the elementary school environment and learned to be okay with making mistakes ! (a perfectionist, he was tearing up work that wasn't exactly perfect!).

      The director of the school, Jon Kidder, has also made a point since joining the administration to have open-ended conversations with parents in each grade where he asks everyone to reflect on ''what is going well'' and ''what could we be doing better.'' That, alone, is amazing and speaks to the depth of the commitment that the school has for actively collaborating and listening to families and parents of children at the school. We do not take this style of engagement for granted, having experienced basically the opposite style in our previous school. If you are looking for an environment that offers differentiated learning, high academic and social standards, and a true collaborative partnership between students, families, teachers and administrators, then Park would be an excellent fit. Best wishes to you on your school decision! Mom of Park Day boys

      Park Day has some serious magic. I can't speak to Renaissance, but I have a fair bit of Montessori experience (Grand Lake in Oakland, Bayside in Alameda, and Urban Montessori Charter School). For happy, engaged kids and responsive leadership, I can't imagine anywhere is better than Park Day.

      First, dealing with problems. Park Day administrators and teachers get that partnering with parents is critical to children's success, and they show it in their willingness to grapple with the hard stuff. I am what might be called a ''difficult'' parent. That means I identify my concerns and share them, often without sufficient care or politesse. Park Day has responded substantively - and always with heart - to each of my concerns. More remarkable still, my ferocity in advocating for my kids has not resulted in alienation. My experience is one of consistent warmth and affection from teachers, staff, and administrators. They ''get'' the kids, and love each one no matter what the foibles. I guess they really get the parents too.

      Second, do the kids love school? A resounding yes. We bought our house in Alameda for the school zone, but our older kid was struggling in K and miserable in 1st grade - seriously, debilitatingly miserable. By the end of the initial visit to Park Day, this same kid was hugging the teachers and said to me, ''Mama, this was the best day of my life.'' Moving to Park Day resulted in a 180-degree turn around: a kid who wants to go to school, loves the teachers, and won't leave aftercare if we show up too early. The week before fourth grade started, this same kid said, ''Mama, it's a good thing I love Park Day so much, or I would miss you all the time.''

      For our second child, we tried Urban Montessori for K after a wonderful preschool experience at Bayside Montessori (and a warning from staff there that the schedule and ratio in a regular public school classroom would be a real challenge for this kid emotionally). It was a hard year all around at Urban, and we made the move to Park Day for 1st grade. Again, a tremendous transformation, and the staff have put in serious care and attention to make that possible. 1st and 2nd grade have been amazing, full of new friendships and love of math, gardening, art, music, and her teacher. This is especially striking because this is a kid who typically would prefer not to leave the house at all. The sense of place and community is profound for her, and we feel so grateful to have found a school that loves and nourishes her.

      Third, emotionally sensitive kids. Both of my kids ''notice everything.'' Kinesthetically, emotionally, energetically. Park Day teachers love the kids, and that means that whether a kid is exquisitely sensitive or is barricaded off emotionally to protect herself, the teacher is there holding the space. Every classroom has a different vibe because the teachers really own their classrooms and create an environment in which the children do as well. My kinesthetic kid has learned boundaries and self-assertion; my easily flooded kid has learned both to take space when she needs it and to ask for help from an adult.

      Fourth, teaching the whole child. Both of my kids are asynchronous learners with many of the learning and social challenges that often entails. Two things have happened at Park Day. (1) My kids are thriving. (2) I trust that my concerns will be taken seriously and that, for the most part, I can relax and let the school do its job. Neither of these would be possible without Park Day's ineffable magic. They look past the surface to the heart of each kid, and then they support and guide and laugh and love. And the kids are amazing. Kind, and astute, and self-confident, and full of love for themselves and others. PDS parent

      Park Day is a wonderful, special place and we highly recommend it. The faculty is dedicated to the students and also to progressive education. We have a 1st grader there and will send our other child to kindergarten next fall. Our son, who still sometimes has trouble separating, loves going to school and has never complained or said, ''I don't want to go to school.'' Students most definitely feel loved and supported.

      The best thing to do is to observe the school and see if it feels like the right fit. There are many opportunities and open houses that can give you a sense of the place. No school is perfect. But Park Day certainly is magical and might be perfect for your family. Best of luck in your search. Anonymous

      Nov 2014

      RE: Progressive school with black students/teachers?

      I am a parent of an African American Boy at Park Day School in Oakland on 42nd street -- a great location for both Berkeley and Oakland families. And, full disclosure, I was invited to join the Board of Trustees this year. While no Bay Area independent school is as diverse as I would like it to be, Park Day has been a great fit for my son. The social-emotional skills development coupled with the academic stimulation that he is exposed to has been transformative. He is thriving at Park Day, he loves to go to school, and loves (and is loved by) his school-mates and teachers. In addition to the growing numbers of both African American and other children of color, what sets Park Day aside is the incredibly active network of parents, many of whom are working towards increasing the diversity of our school community. We have a ''Diversity and Justice Alliance'' group made up of families and staff which holds monthly salons and meetings, as well as a family group (''Families of Children of Color'') that meets for social outings. In short, Park Day School is actively 'doing the work.' I'd choose Park Day again (and again) for my son. Tanya

      As a mom of an active, outgoing 11 yr. old young man, I looked hard to find a non-elitist, progressive middle school that would nurture my Black child. We landed at PARK DAY SCHOOL in Oakland, and my opinionated son has never felt safer or more at home- at school. During our initial visit, the admissions team (including head of school) made it very clear that they were actively looking to attract and retain Black students, especially boys. Diversity and inclusion have been pillars, and the family/community network is strong. If you have not visited this campus- it is an oasis of gardens, farm animals, and genuinely happy children. The staff is on point with messaging and core values. While the student population is diverse, I would love to see more students of color join. Definitely worth a visit. I was surprised one day, to hear my son tell me he loved school. When I repeated that back to him for further discussion, he quickly corrected me and said, ''NO, I DON'T LOVE SCHOOL, I LOVE PARK DAY SCHOOL.'' J~

      Oct 2014

      Re: Why is Head Royce the Best?

      I don't think there is a best school- I think there is a best school for your child. Both my children go to Park Day School and both are thriving because it's the right fit for them. The teachers are incredible - inspirational, transformative - their classrooms are alive with activity as the curriculum is super hands on so they dive deeply into what they are studying and have fun doing it. We did the full search and looked at all the independent schools and at the end of the day, it was Park Day that resonated for us the most as we felt most like they do the social and emotional piece like no other. And yes it is rigorous - and not because the kids are laden every night with piles of homework or cramming for tests, it's rigorous because they are taught to think, to question and to form their own opinions about what they are studying. They foster the curious learner, they embrace the learner who needs a bit more challenge, and they champion the learner who needs a bit attention. My kids love their school and they love to learn and at the end of the day - it's the best fit them. Do your homework and go with your gut - you'll know what is best for your kids. Victoria

      Oct 2014

      Re: Schools that offer 3-D printing classes

      Hi - come visit Park Day School! Park Day integrates STEAM into the curriculum beginning in Kindergarten. We (staff, parents and kids) just completed the construction of an on-site Innovation Design Space that is being used by all the classes as they integrate design thinking and technology in to the curriculum in all grades. Park is a K-8 progressive school that believes in project-based learning and fostering children’s full capacity, confidence, and creativity to be agents of change. The Innovation Space will have 3-D printing but so much more as it expands to its full potential. Park Day partners and collaborates with Harvard's Graduate School of Education and its Agency by Design project to develop curriculum targeted to 21st century STEAM skills. With this dedicated space full of tools and materials, faculty are already expanding their progressive practice by enabling more complex, more interdisciplinary, and more emergent hands-on projects. Students of all ages also now have a supervised but informal place to gather, tinker, share ideas, and mentor one another across age groups. Check out Park Day School! Happy Park Day parent

      March 2014

      We have two children at Park Day School, an 8-year-old/3rd grader and 6-year-old/1st grader. Both started in K. In short, Park Day doesn't disappoint.

      -Has the school culture changed in recent years with faculty turnover and the capital campaign? The culture and climate of Park Day have never been stronger. It attracts faculty who know its reputation and want to be part of it. And, the school retains faculty for that very same reason. It is a place where we parents can ask the hard questions and the school isn't afraid to take up the discussion. The school has been pushed in recent years to take a deeper look at social justice and has responded quite well. Park Day is a place where your child will be respected, challenged, and held.

      -How is the math and science curricula -- is it strong? Quite rigorous. STEM is where it's at for Park Day. The make/design curriculum has really taken off, too.

      When our son was in 2nd grade, I asked him what he remembered about K. He said: "There was so much learning and experiencing." And I asked, "Like what?" He said, "Science!!" Our 1st grade daughter loves math and often asks to do math equations while driving, cooking, etc.

      Another great 1st grade science project is studying an ecosystem. In past years, it's been forests or ocean. Kids choose their own animal or insect to study. The entire classroom is transformed into that ecosystem. You walk in and there is life-sized kelp, jelly fish, sea stars, sharks, hanging from the ceiling, and scuba divers taped onto the ceiling. You really feel you're IN the ocean! It's up for a few days, and then one day, the kids come in and without warning, it's gone. The teacher talks about the oil spill that happened overnight (or forest fire or clear cutting). It leads to some great discussion about being stewards of our environment.

      First graders also learn geometry and engineering through build bridges; in K, they get paired up and for a week, they design and build their own structures and then present it to the class.

      With the science curriculum, there is so much experimentation. They get a question and try all kinds of different ways to reach the answer. Our kids come home wanting to experiment with making parachutes or see what materials filter water quickly or slowly. They are curious!

      In 3rd grade, one of the themes is polyhedrons and in teams, they make a polyhedronville (a city made of polyhedrons). They also study electricity and birds. Our son is having the most fun with the polyhedronville. They have a budget to build their city, each unit is given an amount and certain buildings are required.

      At Math and Science Night, we see the upper grade students and how they produce some pretty darn amazing projects. Probability, testing the five senses, making non-toxic household cleaners, testing memory, designing the most efficient wind turbines (multi and single blade), etc.

      -The outdoor space is beautiful, but does its size make it difficult for the kids to be well supervised at recess? Staff are vigilant. Everyone is assigned a time/day for supervision and they walk around all areas. For morning recess and lunch recess, and end the day, K students are released a few minutes before everyone else so they can have sometime on the swings, sandbox and play structures to themselves. The students also monitor each other. They know they're not supposed to climb trees or trample through the bushes and will tell an adult if someone is doing so.

      -Past reviews have spoken about "spirited" children and "big social energy" of some students. I can't really tell what that means. Are behavior or discipline problems an issue? How are they handled? Park Day is a school filled with wonderful children. And kids do/say all kinds of things. And one thing we love is that behavior is not viewed as a problem. It is authentically viewed as a teachable moment. Two things here: individual behavior (ie, shouting out in class) and conflict among the students. I'll speak to both.

      When there's conflict, it's all about restorative justice.

      Speaking from experience, our son has been both a giver and receiver. As a receiver, he was teased by a 4th grade girl for using a Hello Kitty lunchbox. Another 4th grade girl stepped up as an ally and said, “He can use whatever lunchbox he wants. The two girls are friends and what I love about this incident is that one friend felt confident enough to say something to her friend rather than join in on the teasing (or ignore the situation).

      As a giver, our son was in the lunch line and his best friend was bugging him about something. The best friend wouldn't stop bugging our son. So our son popped his friend in the face. The friend hit back. An adult stopped them and they both landed in the Lower School Director's office. The Lower School Director facilitated a discussion about what happened. She got both of their versions of the incident, and asked them both how they would handle the situation in the future. Then they role played that future situation. It was marvelous!

      It is part of the everyday vernacular at Park Day to talk about being a friend/ally/peacekeeper and the impact of their choices every step of the way.

      With individual behavior, I have witnessed the spontaneous energy of K-3 girls and boys handled with aplomb. When students shout out in class or have side conversations, teachers take the time to make it a lesson about empathy (how do you think so-and-so feels when you interrupt? How would you feel if you were interrupted?). Kids who wiggle can sit in rocking chairs (older kids can sit on T-stools or have big rubber bands around the feet of the chair so they can push their feet against the tension). Students learn how their behavior impacts themselves (when you have side conversations, you're missing out on some pretty cool stuff) and how it impacts others (when you have side conversations, it makes it difficult for your classmates to hear).

      Do you love your school? Yes!

      What do you think is most important to know about making this decision? We felt what was most important was finding a school where our children would see the value of education, see themselves as active learners, as having a voice in the educational conversation, and become life-long lovers of learning. And we want them to be confident problem-solvers. We definitely see it all being fostered at Park Day School.

      Feb 2014

      Someone recently commented that Park Day School is not an accredited school and is not academically rigorous. As a long time parent at the school, I think that observation is wholly inaccurate.

      PDS is a provisional member of CAIS, the state's independent accreditation organization. Our school was instrumental in convincing this group to eliminate the need for standardized testing in its member schools. Standardized testing is an approach to assessment that has been shown to be innately discriminatory and many independent schools are moving away from this type of evaluation tool and towards more comprehensive and valid assessment strategies.

      For those wondering about how Park Day prepares kids academically: Our students attend high schools across the Bay Area including Athenian, CPS, Lick Wilmerding, Drew, Bentley, Head Royce, Bishop O'Dowd and of course our great local public schools. Further, approximately 60% of Park Day School alums from 2007, 2008 and 2009, are attending colleges and universities that US News and World Reports and/or Forbes name as a ''top 100 national college/university'' or ''top 100 national liberal arts college'' in their most recent listings.

      Park Day does an amazing job of creating students that are self-aware, academically prepared, thoughtful, independent people. It is a terrific school and well worth looking at if you are looking for a warm community that provides bountiful challenge in every aspect of a student's academic and social emotional development. A satisfied parent

      Feb 2014

      Re: Private schools for gifted child
      Though my very bright child has never been at Prospect Sierra, he has been at Park Day School since 2010. I have found that all his teachers, from core classroom teachers to specialist enrichment teachers, have found ways to challenge him or deepen the curriculum wherever it suits him. Many of his core teachers are already experts in differentiating their curriculum so that everyone in the classroom is challenged at their own ''just right'' level - sometimes even without the students noticing these differences.

      Aside from making sure your bright kid is sufficiently challenged academically, it's important to remember that even very bright students, and perhaps especially very bright students, also need a place that will support their social and emotional development. There are many ways to get academic enrichment for a bright kid who needs more than they get at school. But it is very hard to find any setting that presents a good balance of academic, social, and emotional learning that is so aware of each kid in their charge. I know my kid is incredibly fortunate to attend a school that not only understands this, but is able to deliver it, year after year. Good luck with your decision, Another parent

      Nov 2013

      We moved to Berkeley a little more than two years ago with our two children. Our oldest daughter entered the first grade at Park Day. A fellow parent with children who had been through the elementary school and going to Park's middle school program told us the first grade teachers are so amazing, you'll want to have more children just so you can experience first grade with them again. Teachers who make you want to enure the trials and tribulations of early pre-school days? That's quite a compliment, but we found it's no understatement. Our first grader's experience at Park Day couldn't have been better. A quiet observer, our daughter benefited from the nurturing and brilliant teaching style of Susan Erb. Our daughter simply loved first grade, everything from the in-depth study of bridges, developing an understanding of the environment around them, to performing a heart-warming parent-student createdd adaptation of Charlotte's Web. Now in third grade, our daughter's foundation for learning is strong, as she thrives as a strong reader and lover of books, and navigates the sometimes challenging world of mathematics, all the while being assured by her engaging and inspiring third grade teacher, Renee Miller, that she can do it!

      Our youngest daughter had the joy of attending Park Day beginning in Kindergarten last year. What a magical experience! Her teacher, Simrita Dhanjal provided a strong platform for developing the children's interest in math, science, writing and reading, that is when the children weren't taking turns at hugging their beloved Simrita. They had so much fun with their lessons, but worked really hard at the same time. And now our youngest is thriving in first grade, in Joanie Albertini's class. Our daughter reads outloud to us at night, and enjoys science experiments and art projects equally. The enrichment programs at Park are outstanding. The specialists in Spanish, Art, Music, Sports, and Gardening are top-notch, ensuring that the child has a well-rounded experience. Having just finished our first teacher conferences of the year, we have such confidence and assurance we made the right choice in sending our children to Park Day. If you are looking for an execptional school that has stellar academics, AND fosters the emotional and social development that as a parent you are working so hard to support at home. Raising a child does take a village, and trust me when I say, Park Day School is a village like no other. But one that you be thankful everyday to have become a part of. As for wishing we had more children to put through Park, you bet. We'll have to settle on passing our best wishes on to you, and hope you consider giving your child a Park Day School education. A Proud Park Day School Parent

      August 2013

      Re: Entering 8th & 5th Grade from overseas
      We had a similar situation to you, moving back to the Bay Area with our two boys who had grown up in Australia (my home country). Our decision to move back did not coincide neatly with school years, so my son entered 1st grade at Park Day School in March this year. My other son is not yet school age.

      This school had been recommended to us by friends and we primarily were attracted to the strong commitment to the emotional and social development of the children, and the great community that was evident there. We did not investigate any other schools, but we trusted the opinions of the people who endorsed the school enough to apply there.

      We could not be happier with our choice. My son, and our whole family, felt integrated from day one. His teacher made an outstanding effort to ensure that was the case. The children themselves were wonderfully welcoming and inclusive. Having already completed 1st grade in Australia, he was somewhat ahead academically, but the teacher made sure that he was given tasks at an appropriate level to keep him stimulated and eager to learn.

      My son has blossomed in his few months at this school, and his being happy there has made our whole family's transition just so much easier. Helen

      When moving back to the U.S. after years of living abroad, I wish I had known about Park Day School. We were new to the Bay Area. Web searches and friends steered us toward a ''good'' East Bay public school with relatively high API scores. After 4th grade, we knew it was the wrong place for our talented child. The intellectual nurturing our eldest child has experienced at Park Day is a far cry from the overcrowded, one-size-fits-all and sometimes downright negative learning environment he'd endured. Now entering 8th grade, it took him four weeks at Park Day School as a ''new'' 6th grader to become integrated socially, emotionally and academically. He went from being a kid that was starting to hate school to a kid who loves it, particularly excelling at science and math. We eventually applied to Park Day for our youngest child and have seen him thrive, too. Our boys are an unusual mix for the U.S (South Asian and Black American) so we really wanted a commitment to diversity and social justice to emerge in their learning. Park Day has exceeded our expectations. Carla

      April 2013

      Re: Moving to east bay middle school recommendations?
      Park Day School has an excellent middle school. It combines teachers using the right mix of intellectual curiosity, enticing projects, and small class size to keep the students engaged. The kids are challenged to excel at math, writing, and science. The school is becoming known for its wonderful maker faire which is hosted each year with such notables as Wired magazines drone maker Chris Anderson. Feel free to contact me with any questions. Maureen

      March 2013

      Re: Beacon Day, Redwood Day, Black Pine or Park Day?
      I am sure you are going to get a lot of responses from people who have children at all of these schools telling you it is the right one for you - I am doing that as well! My son is at PDS and it is all of the things you described in an environment that is understanding, supportive and responsive to the needs of the whole child. The teachers know deeply who your child is and partner with both the child and the parent to create an environment that helps them become who they are. Certainly the best thing you can do is to visit each school, keep Park high on the list and check it out - I think you will find exactly what you are looking for! mafh

      I have three children at Park Day School, a 7th grader and twins in 2nd grade. We love the school and its progressive approach to education while placing an emphasis on both academics and being a good person. The teachers and academics are excellent. Each child is expected to maximize their potential -- something teachers are able to focus on because of small class sizes. Maureen

      Jan 2013

      Re: Which private elementary for highly gifted child?
      I think Park Day would be a great choice for your gifted child. I've found that their teachers and approach support my kids' growth in a way that has them love learning so that they make the best of their talents without getting drawn into the cut-throat competitive world too early in their schooling. Park is a gentle, loving place with very high expectations. Park Day's teaching staff is an extraordinary blend of long tenured teachers with amazing energy, newer teachers with real wisdom, and second career teachers that have life/work experience that really help my kids learn to learn in the ways that are best suited to their interests and aptitudes. I guess there are other schools that tout their academic rigor more forcefully, but it is clear to me that Park Day holds my kids' growth in all areas (academic, social, emotional) in a way that will have them beautifully prepared to take their gifts to the highest, happiest levels through their formal schooling and beyond. You didn't say what grade your child will be switching from, but I'd also say that the community at Park is pretty remarkable in the way new children are welcomed and held from their first arrival so that they enjoy the learning and their new teachers and friends from the start. anon

      I'm a Park Day parent and an educator who worked at a school for gifted children for ten years. I chose Park Day for my kids because of the school's extraordinary teachers and we have been incredibly happy there. The class sizes are small so the teachers are able to differentiate instruction to meet the range in the classroom. The teachers are truly outstanding, and the school is committed to meeting the individual needs of each child. Additionally, the school is exceptionally equipped to meet the social and emotional needs of its students -- often key with gifted children as they may require additional support in this area. I'd recommend Park Day without hesitation -- it's a remarkable school! Park day parent

      Dec 2012

      Re: social/emotional development vs academics?
      My kid started at Park Day School in Kindergarten. For the 8 years we've been there, I've been impressed with the way that the teachers and the staff have been attentive to both his social/emotional growth, and to his learning. Park Day brings these 2 areas together with warm, talented/energetic teachers and a core philosophy that knows and holds children well. Graduates head off to, and succeed in all of the high schools in the area -- Tech, OSA and Berkeley High, as well as CPS, H-R, Bentley, Drew, Lick Wilmerding, O'Dowd, Urban etc.--and to college at the Ivy's, Stanford and the range of top colleges. The academics at Park go deep-with large/involved projects that help kids learn how to learn -- with math, science, arts and the humanities that don't feel heavy (no excessive homework, or high competition to divide the group), instead the projects and discussions have proven engaging and stimulating in a way that has our kid knowing that he can do anything, and asking for more. The math and science curriculum is particularly engaging, and the teachers ask a lot and give a lot to these areas. At the beginning of this year, Harvard's graduate School of Education started to sponsor a multi-year program that is focusing on Park Day's hands-on approach, and to understand how it can be used in classrooms beyond Park Day. If you are looking for a school that brings academics and social/emotional development together in a proven approach, you should really look at Park Day School. A Thrilled PDS Parent

      Dec 2012

      Re: Private K-8 with strong science? Does it exist?
      Park Day School in Oakland has an amazing science program that engages kids from Day 1. I recently asked my 2nd grader what he remembers about kindergarten and he said without hesitation - ''There was so much learning and experiencing. Like science!'' It starts with exploring wood, paper, plants in kindergarten, to building bridges, exploring the environment (clouds, oceans, bugs, etc.) in 1st grade, to learning about probability and statistics, weights and measures, anatomy, chemical reactions, etc. in the upper grades. Students are fully engaged in creating nontoxic household cleaners, designing the layout of school's rainwater catchment system, and exploring how the five senses work, among other things. What's more, Park Day students are curious and learn how to develop a solid hypothesis, which allows them to proceed with confidence in their discovery of the answers. Contact the school for a tour 510-653-0317 ext. 120 and visit on Math and Science night. Dara

      Absolutely! I would strongly recommend Park Day in Oakland. It has a strong science program that engages the kids in the manner that most excites - hands on, age appropriate, active, interesting and fun. My son is in 7th grade and wants to get to school early every day so he can hang out in the science classroom! At every age the kids are not just learning facts, they are learning how those facts exist in the natural world, how to be observers, how to be scientists and to engage with the world with a critical and curious mind. On top of all that you get a wonderfully progressive, nurturing environment that strives to have every child grow into who they are - check it out! Maggie

      Nov 2012

      Re: Good middle school for boys
      You just described Park Day School exactly. My son is there now, we entered in 6th grade and I can safely say that the school provides precisely the environment you described. It has been a great experience for us and my son is thriving! Maggie

      Nov 2012

      I always look to the BPN community for advice regarding my own child. I am writing this entry because our son, now eight, my husband, and I could not be happier with the school we chose, Park Day School, and I would like to help others who are facing the same quandaries we faced at the time we had to choose a school.

      My husband is a researcher (Physics), my undergraduate degrees are both in Physics and Math, and my advanced degrees are in Math. When considering schools for our son, we were a little finicky, to put it mildly, when looking at their math and science curricula, in particular. At Park Day School, we were taken by the amazing teachers and director, the strength and degree of integration of their progressive curriculum, and their commitment to social justice and environmental sustainability; all of it taking place, I may add, in the most beautiful campus we saw of all the schools we visited (which were six in total). But this you can see in any brochure. I would like to specifically address math in my post, because it's a very important matter to us, and a very common concern in general.

      I am going to write examples of ways in which my son has lived mathematics at Park Day: at the end of his first year he went around the campus, taking photographs of some of the geometric forms he had learned about - circles, ovals, straight lines, parallel lines, diagonals, . . . At five years of age, he was thrilled to play with the camera, all to himself, and transition from concrete to abstract and back in a completely internalized way. The year after, in Kinder, he already knew many numbers, and when he was done a bit early with his classwork, his wonderful teacher had a stack of additional math and logic challenges ready for him - at six years old he loved Sudoku. In first grade, he continued saying that math was his favorite subject (though he started to spend a lot of time reading too), he loved counting by fives, or tens, or fifteens, . . . He developed ad hoc ways of coming up with solutions to multiplication problems even if he didn't know the answer by heart: he knew something close enough, and the he was able to reach the solution adding or subtracting a few. Now, in second grade, he is beginning to understand the advantages of base ten and the algorithm of stacking numbers to add or subtract them, as opposed to putting them side by side; he also estimates things very often and spontaneously, e.g., hmm, it says here that this was 600 days ago, so, I must have been 6. Or we had just celebrated the 100th day of school, so it must have been November. I could go on and on. I firmly believe my son, his peers and other Park students will continue to learn and love mathematics throughout their life, thanks to the education they are receiving at Park Day School. Because it is an education that takes root in the individual's curiosity, and it's carefully nurtured from there. Because on and off campus I see my son and his friends own who they are and what they learn, with enthusiasm, joy, and without fear. MLB

      Park Day School | Middle School

      Nov 2012

      My son attended a wonderful public school in El Cerrito (Madera), but I was unsure of our (only) public middle school. We decided to rent out our house and take an apartment in Berkeley so he could go to King. Along the way, we were encouraged to check out Park Day School. I didn't think we could afford it, but we received financial aid, and that's where my son started middle school last year (2011). WE LOVE IT!

      The class sizes are 12-18 students. The atmosphere is relaxed, nurturing, and engaging. He's a shy kid, but on the third day of 6th grade he told me, ''Mom, I can't do that, my friends would kill me!'' He had friends!!! Besides getting the basics (math, English, social studies and science), he takes Spanish, PE, music, drama, and art. There's usually 30-60 minutes of homework a night, plus 30 minutes of reading everyday. The campus is small, with lush established gardens, beautiful older (but revamped) bulidings, and even a chicken coop. There's an after school sports program, school lunch program with in-house chefs and organic foods, several Independent School dances a year, and lots of field trips. The parents are a pretty tight group, but they've been very welcoming to new families (I think about 1/3 of the families were new for 6th grade).

      Some of the cool things:
      - Read-a-thon: Kids in all grades get to hang out in their pjs and sleeping bags and read for an entire day.
      - Mini-Maker Fair: So awesome to get involved with these innovative makers!
      - 6th Grade Play: At the Live Oak Theater in Berkeley. For two weeks the class schedule is shuffled around so the kids can produce and act in a play.
      - 6th Grade Kindergarden Buddies: Each 6th grader pairs up with a little kid, reads with them, and produces several books for them.
      - 7th & 8th Grade Garden Plays: Students write and act in their own plays, adapted from a Language Arts assignment. Each group gets their own spot in the PDS garden and plays run continuously, with parents and friends moving from site to site.
      - Diversity Series (not sure of the official name): Speakers spoke first-hand to the 6th grade class on different topics (transgender, fat politics, disabled, Muslim, racism, gay, and more).
      - 8th Grade trip to Costa Rica/Mexico (Spanish-speaking destination subject to change)
      - Math is taught by two different teachers, using different methods, and your kid is placed in the class that best meets his/her learning style.
      - Teachers all go by their first names.
      - All staff are accessible and responsive to kids and parent needs.
      - There has been no bullying, and there really is no tolerance for that kind of behavior.

      My son was a good student before, and I like that he's getting this chance to learn in an environment with a more open curriculum. He'll be going to public high school, and most PDS kids are ready for Spanish 2 and Geometry. Lots of PDS graduates go on to academically rigorous private schools like Bentley, Head Royce, Athenian and Lick-Wilmerding.

      There are some down sides: very small play areas--no real fields or regulation-size basketball hoops; no common Middle School Library (although the language arts teachers have a lot of books, and the kids use the Rockridge Public Library for research projects), and there are so many fundraisers (which I shouldn't complain about as some of the money goes to financial aid as well as the 8th grade trip to Mexico/Costa Rica). But these are really little things when compared to how much my kid is getting out of the experience. If you're looking for a middle school (or grade school), be sure to check Park Day School out. Jenne

      Oct 2012

      To anyone out there who is either just beginning a search for an independent school for a soon-to-be-Kindergartner, or if your child is not happy in his or her current school, consider Park Day School in Oakland!! We have a gorgeous, fun, flower and vegetable filled, campus, the academic curriculum is challenging and inspiring, and the community is as diverse in culture, class and experience as any in the East Bay. Some people have an impression that Park Day is a "crunchy granola" school which couldn't be farther from the truth. We DO have a very wonderful feeling of community and we ARE different: Children call teachers by their first names and yet the aura of respect in the classroom is palpable. The kids learn gardening, building, and how to be good citizens in addition to all the required academic subjects. Their learning is an amazing panorama of social and emotional mentoring (what does it mean to be an ally?) intertwined with a top-notch-get-in-to-Stanford class room education. Our teachers are PHENOMENAL - every day they help kids figure out who they are and how to write their story as a student. Start your child off on their educational trajectory at Park Day - and if you have a first grader or older who needs a change, there are a few coveted slots in the other grades too. Find out more about the school. Visit. You won't be sorry... An enamored parent

      Oct 2012

      My daughter finished nine happy, challenging, wonderful years at Park Day School last year, and is now in 9th grade at Oakland Tech. She loved Park Day, the incredible sense of community, the gorgeous oasis of gardens, sports field, green space and beautiful buildings. She adored her phenomenal, experienced teachers who prepared her so well to succeed anywhere and take responsibility for her own work. (Average teacher tenure at Park: 15 years, and many have been there much longer.) She graduated from Park with an excellent academic education that taught her to think deeply and with the skill to learn anything she puts her mind to.

      I credit Park Day for preparing her for the academic challenges at Tech, too. She has transitioned so easily to this large public school (and would have done just as well at a rigorous private school as well). In classrooms of 35 kids, she continues to succeed and is able to focus and learn with a motivation and creativity that her teachers at Park helped instill in her.

      Park was worth every penny, because the school gave my kid much more than a good academic foundation. It gave her a sense of her place in and responsibility to the larger community and the creative, adaptive skills to help her succeed in the rapidly changing future. Lauren

      Oct 2012

      To anyone out there who is either just beginning a search for a private school for a soon-to-be-Kindergartner or if your child is not happy in his or her current school Cb consider Park Day School in Oakland!! We have a big, fun, flower and vegetable filled, gorgeous campus, the academic curriculum is challenging and inspiring, and the community is as diverse in culture, class and experience as any in the East Bay. Some people have an impression that Park Day is a ''crunchy granola'' school which couldn't be farther from the truth. We DO have a very wonderful feeling of community and we ARE different: Children call teachers by their first names and yet the aura of respect in the classroom is palpable. The kids learn gardening, building, and how to be good citizens in addition to all the required academic subjects. Their learning is an amazing panorama of social and emotional mentoring (what does it mean to be an ally?) intertwined with a top-notch-get-in-to-Stanford class room education. Our teachers are PHENOMENAL - every day they help kids figure out who they are and how to write their story as a student. Start your child off on their educational trajectory at Park Day - and if you have a first grader or older who needs a change, there are a few coveted slots in the other grades too. Find out more about the school. Visit. You won't be sorry... An enamored parent

      March 2012

      Re: so many good schools to choose from - which one?
      I can't say enough good things about Park Day School. Two of my children have gone there, one still enrolled, and it is just the right amount of everything. Not one day in the entire 9 years we've been associated with the school has either of my children come home that I haven't appreciated that Park is an extension of our home and a vital part of my children's community! As for academics, don't underestimate Park Day. Both my kids need to be challenged... and they always have been - even if it meant teachers sending home individual homework lessons - in math, they teach the kids to do more than memorize their times tables, but dig deeper, and challenge them to learn 5 or 10 ways to solve the same problem. My oldest left after 5th grade (for financial reasons) and within months of entering the public schools was in advance math programs because of the very strong foundation Park provided in math: she learned to be a mathematical thinker and learner, not just a memorizer. Your child will be engaged, excited about learning, curious and involved at Park Day. S/he will leave Park Day with an inherent ability to advocate for herself - not wait until someone teaches, but to ask, question, and thrive on understanding the world. The campus is amazing and every year I am shocked at how the school introduces so much new into our lives - from the growning gardens, to the new yurt, to the hot lunches. The staff have supported our family - when we've been in need (unemployment) and when we've been able to contribute time, energy and innovative ideas. The kids are supportive of each other and learn to be allies - to see themselves as part of a bigger world and take responsibility for that - a welcome and refreshing perspective given what is going on in our adult world right now! Good luck with your choices - but you can't go wrong with Park! Mom of Engaged Park Day Kids

      My child has been at Black Pine and Park Day so I will speak to those two. I think you have to know your kid. My nerdy boy who is gifted in science and an avid reader is much happier at Black Pine Circle. At Park Day there were not as many potential matches for friends. In general I think the social environment at BPC is better than at Park for gentle and sensitive boys in particular. We had far fewer problems with bullying at BPC than at Park Day. The playground at BPC is small, but in our experience, that means it is much better supervised. Park does not, I think, screen for academic preparedness, while I think BPC does. There were definitely more ''spirited'' boys at Park. The classroom environment at BPC is definitely more structured than at Park and to my surprise that too was a huge benefit for my child. The math enrichment at BPC is strong. The creative writing and writer's workshop seemed stronger at Park Day and the afterschool program at Park Day was richer in terms of offerings. There is a kind of joyfulness in the air at Park Day, as well as a lot of kid sense, and that is definitely worth a lot. If, however, your kid is not a good fit -- and if you have any anticipation that your child might be a target for bullying -- it could be very difficult. another mom

      Nov 2011

      Hi We are considering park day school for our daughter who will be five next september. I was wondering what the homework load is for kids in the lower grades? One of the reasons we want to do private school is so she is not loaded with hours of unnecessary homework at such a young age. any other feedback on the school and community would be great thanks ella

      I'm a parent of a 6th grader and two first graders at Park Day. The homework assignments at Park have always seemed beneficial. I don't remember a single one that took more time or energy than I thought appropriate for the age. Our first graders love doing their once or twice a week homework. They really find it fun. Our 6th grader has more these days, but balances homework with his play and afternoon/evening activities quite easily. I guess I'd say that the truly remarkable teachers at Park Day focus on homework quality (learning) rather than quantity. Beyond homework, I feel lucky to have our children at Park Day. It's a magical place for learning and I highly recommend it. John

      I am the parent of two children at Park Day in 1st and 3rd gr -been there since BK. Park is a progressive school and does not give homework for homework's sake. In the lower grades it is given to reinforce work done in class and to get the kids accustomed to the responsibility of completing it and turning it in. There is never anything given in homework that has not already been covered in class. In the lower grades the homework is very modest, tailored to the abilities of each child. In K & 1st homework is given once a week (and not every week) and is usually a math game and a book to read. Books are tailored to the level of each child. All teachers encourage and welcome feedback about how homework goes at home - and make adjustments for each child as needed. 1st graders also get spelling words to practice. In 2nd and 3rd gr the work increases slightly with more content and variety - science, social studies, reading and math - but it is all very manageable. For 2nd-3rd part of homework is just helping the kids learn to be self sufficient; to take responsibility for getting it done, turning it in, AND learning to ask the teachers for help. 2-3rd gr homework comes home once a week & the whole packet usually takes no more than 45-50 minutes total for the 4 days: spread out over the week it's 15 min a night! As a working parent I am so appreciative of this approach. Every teacher in each grade has made it clear that homework should not be a stressor between parent and child and that if it becomes an issue they are very willing to help you and your child find the tools to make it as painless as possible. Both of my kids take pride in doing and turning in their homework. I feel that without even realizing it our kids are going to be very ready for the bump up in expectations that happens from 4th grade on. Park is a fantastic school and wonderful learning environment - as with most things they find the perfect balance with homework! Linda

      My kids attend Peralta (OUSD) and their homework load is very light (and very appropriate I think), so I would not assume that public schools pile on homework and private schools do not. Peralta Mom

      Oct 2011

      Our three children go to Park Day School in Oakland. We have a 6th grader and twins in 1st grade. The school combines an amazing academic experience bottled up and delivered as pure fun for kids. The combination of great teachers, small class sizes, and a creative intellectual approach to learning, allows children to enjoy math, science, and writing, and unknowingly absorb difficult concepts with ease. We have had a truly amazing at Park and have watched as our school continues to expand in many ways. We go from bridge K through 8th grade. Have a beautiful six acre campus. And the school has recently added a hot lunch program (causing our picky slender 6th grader to put on 5 pounds). The school's lesser known brainy side, combined with its known warmth and heart, has created the perfect environment for kids to thrive. Another writer mentions feeling like she won the Willy Wonka golden tickets upon finding out her child got into Park, I couldn't agree more. Maureen

      Sept 2011

      I have always said that having the opportunity for our daughter to attend Park Day School was like receiving one of Willy Wonka's golden tickets. With a Master's degree in curriculum design, and a career as a distinguished educator, I chose Park Day because of the depth, sophistication and heart of their progressive curriculum as well as the consistently exceptional testimonials I heard from local high school teachers about ''Park kids.'' As director Tom Little once said so accurately, Park Day students are known for ''leaning into the learning.''

      I have learned over time that sending our daughter to Park Day would be the best parenting decision my husband and I would make. Our daughter has always been a curious, perceptive, and motivated learner. We have discovered that she also has multiple learning challenges.

      Imagine: not mastering reading until late 4th grade, yet feeling academically competent. Imagine: at age 10, choosing to tell your classmates that you have OCD, and asking for and receiving their patient caring support.

      Park Day students learn to ask: ''How can I make a difference? How can I be an ally for a fellow student in need?'' When she was a kindergartner, our daughter was brought to tears when she became separated from her group during a school assembly. She was quickly embraced by dear 6th grade Maria, and ushered to help. When she was knocked down on the soccer field, a long arm invariably reached out asking, ''Are you okay?'' Years later, if her classmates enjoyed a book that had larger print, they would give my daughter first priority to read it, as it was a good match for her needs.

      Park Day is such a dynamic and joyful learning community in which kids are willing to dig for deep understanding and ask for help when needed, because of the depth of thought, heart, and commitment that Park teachers have to make a difference in the lives of their students: socially, emotionally, and academically. When our child went through a period of ''cognitive overload'' and heightened anxiety over her homework, her teacher wrote down her personal cell phone number and asked her to please call for help when needed. When a group of friends were unable to resolve a conflict amongst themselves, the teacher took the time, over weeks, to adroitly guide all of the students to relate in a manner that benefitted all concerned. When our daughter finally cracked the code of reading, several of her teachers wrote her personal letters of congratulations: ''Welcome to the club,'' one teacher wrote, as she described how her own love of reading had touched her through each stage of her life.

      Our daughter walks in the world feeling seen, loved and cared for by her community. She feels competent, and worthy of people's time. She, in turn, has been noted for her empathy and kindness. She is a motivated and successful student. Much of this we owe to Park Day School. I am in awe. And as good as it is, every year it just seems to get better. This all comes to mind as I pick our daughter up from school these first weeks back at school, and she repeatedly jumps in the car saying, ''I love school!'' ''I'm not just happy,'' she said, jumping into the car one day. ''I feel grateful.''

      There is no question that children with complex learning profiles can be particularly challenging-- and expensive, but we are confident that the investment we've made in our child's development by enrolling her at Park Day School has given our family incalculable returns. anon

      Feb 2011

      I moved my twins from public school to Park Day School in second grade because I thought they would receive a better education.

      After less than one year at Park Day School I was told that my son has a learning disability. We were asked to have him tested. The cost of the testing to date exceeds $10,000. He is diagnosed with ADHD, social anxiety and depression.

      Because my son was not keeping up in class we were asked to augment his education with private Speech and Language Therapy. My son had once-a-week sessions with a private speech and language therapist from age 7 until age 12 at a cost of approximately $600 a month - we paid for this service out of pocket.

      In Sixth grade we were asked by the school to hire a ''shadow teacher'' who would sit next to my son in class and help him keep up. He has had a ''shadow'' for three years. The shadow teacher doubles the cost of attending Park Day. Again, this is a cost we parents have paid.

      Last year, even with his ''shadow,'' Park Day informed us that my son is not progressing well in Math. For over a year we have paid for weekly math tutoring sessions.

      This year we were told that Park Day would not allow my son to remain in their school if we refused to pay for the shadow - even though I am currently unemployed. We intend to transfer my son to a public school in the Fall. We underwent the IEP process and I learned that the Public School system provides for FREE, the assistive services for which we have paid thousands of dollars.

      I kept my son in Park Day because I assumed he would get more one-on-one attention. I thought smaller classes would be better. I augmented his education with private tutors, teachers and shadows when I was asked to do so. What I find most troublesome is this: At no time did Park Day suggest to us that our son would benefit if we transferred him to a public school. Park Day Parent

      Nov 2010

      Re: Kindergarten for a Math Geek
      My son, now in 6th grade, has been at Park since kindergarten and I have so much respect for the math curriculum. My kid loves math, but so do most of the kids in his grade -- I remember sitting in on the first day of 2nd grade when my son's teacher asked each kid to say what they liked best about school. ''Math.'' ''Math.'' ''Math.'' ''Math.'' It was hilarious.

      Here are two things that I think are relevant to your question. One is that kids at Park are taught from kindergarten on to honor and respect each other for who they are, and the result is kids who feel free to like what they like, whatever it is, and be who they are, whoever that is. My son and his (large group of) friends proudly call themslelves ''nerds'' because they like math and science and technology and music and books. But it's a name they chose for themselves, not one that anyone would have called them otherwise.

      The second thing is that the math they've learned isn't just a series of equations. Kids at Park are challenged to find multiple ways to solve problem, and the math curriculum includes lots of discussion and writing about math in addition to the equations. DS

      Park Day Junior High

      Oct 2010

      After looking at many schools, we love Park Day for many reasons, especially the younger grades, and the new unified campus is amazing- I don't think that there's a better space in the east bay. My question is about their new (ish) junior high school program. I would like to know from both current parents and those graduated, are you happy with the junior high? Is it academically challenging? Is your child prepared for high school? If not, what are some of the challenges? How do former students handle pressure (both academic and peer,) at their new schools? Does (did) Park help you find the right high school? I see that the school has a ton of potential and we're very excited. Thank you! anon

      To the parent who asked about Park Day School's middle school, I am a long-time PDS parent and would give the school's middle school VERY high marks. It was great for my 9th grader (=now a freshman at a very challenging high school) and her friends: they all felt well prepared for their various high schools. The graduates of Park seem particularly strong in (a) their study, analytical and writing skills, (b) their attitude toward high school work (i.e., they hit the ground running/aren't burned out), (c) their ability to make friends easily and handle the stresses of high school, and (d)their math/science readiness. The social studies program was somewhat weak until this fall, but has improved tremendously: new teacher, better curriculum. Add: superb student culture, plus the gorgeous campus, plus the sweetest families anywhere. You will love it. Good luck.

      Nov 2009

      Re: Challenging Progressive School?
      Park Day School is a progressive school that is incredibly challenging. Their emphasis on critical thinking and work with abstract concepts with hands on learning creates a curriculum that leads children to own their learning and love it. The staff at PDS is mindful of the scope and sequence of the curriculum through the grade levels - they have even mapped their social justice scope and sequence curriculum, as well as math and science. Children's learning is deep and builds from one year to the next. My two children are also known for who they are, held in their emotional/social selves and who they are as learners. PDS talks about differences among people (race, gender,learning styles) and honors each person's contribution. This isn't just pretty language - they really do it - Even when it is not easy and when the community is challenged by the difficulty of finding ways to grapple with issues of diversity. PDS does't just talk the talk but they walk the road. anon

      Nov 2009

      Re: Challenging Progressive School?
      A good progressive education can also (should also) include appropriate challenges for academically-oriented kids, and Park Day School excels at this. My spouse and I come from brainiac backgrounds - Harvard (him), UCB Law (both), Nat'l Merit Scholarship (moi) - and wondered whether the warm and fuzzy Park Day School culture could accommodate our unusually gifted but shy third child. Let's just say, in talking to our son about second grade this year I have learned how to spell microchiroptera (and the particular attributes of this half of the bat world, as well as the other, megachiroptera) and seen an exciting version of pre- algebra (using shapes in place of variables). PDS's small class size makes it possible for teachers to really understand what makes each kid tick, and they support their little Einsteins beautifully. Check it out! Park Day School nerd-mom

      August 2009

      I'm writing to highly recommend Park Day School's middle school program. If you're looking for a program that combines great psychology (and a true understanding of the adolescent) with individualized attention and appropriate academic challenges, this is it. Our daughter is a rather brainy, sociable, deep thinking kid with an aptitude for math and writing. We transferred her to PDS from public school at grade four. PDS expanded to include 7th and 8th grades just in time for us to benefit, and we are blown away by how well that program is managed and run. Wendy Wilkinson, the 7/8 director, is a wonderwoman. She is so likeable and intelligent, she inspires confidence from parents, kids, and staff. She has decades of experience working with kids this age and helping them (and their parents) find and get into high schools that are a good fit. Gretchen-the-math-teacher is also amazing,sharing her passion for math and getting each kid what s/he needs to improve quickly. PDS is not, as an old neighbor recently joked, a ''hippy dippy'' school - it offers terrific academics in a supportive environment. An A+!

      Feb 2009

      Re: Daughter not ready for K or is it just the wrong school?
      Park Day School in Oakland, a wonderful, warm, progressive and diverse school has started a Bridge-K program. I am always so impressed with how child-centered the staff are. The play area is beautiful and varied. Check it out on their website: I heard that they are still accepting applications for the Bridge-K program even though there is a deadline on the website. anon

      Feb 2009

      I wondered if anyone who has had experience at both Park Day and St. Paul's - especially if they've switched from one to the other - could share what their experience has been and what they feel are the strong differences (other than the facilities). My son will be starting kindergarten next year. He's a self-directed, articulate, musical, and social guy and would be at home at both places. We like both schools and see many strengths at both from the outside but wonder if an insider can share what they've experienced as the most significant differences between the two. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and insights. Anon

      I've had young children at both Park Day and St. Paul's. They are both wonderful choices for progressive values, diversity, a responsive classroom, language arts, and longtime committed staff and leadership.

      But there are differences, to wit:

      Park Day: Their campus is peaceful, parklike,and nurturing. If your son is shy, needs space,or has a quirky personality, Park is a better choice. Their teachers will know and love your child. The major down side to Park, for us, was that over time our son was not challenged enough in math and other areas, and we actually hired supplemental tutors to keep enriching his academic experience. Later, he needed to seriously learn how to take a standardized test since he'd never seen one and it was no longer an option. We wondered if it was possible to join a social, activist curriculum with academics, because while our son became an amazing person he was not a great student.

      St. Paul's: Their campus is more urban and busy, play areas are limited. A kid who is independent or passionate will thrive, as did our second son. Like Park Day, a lot of social activism and discussion with dedicated staff. St. Paul's was not religious per se (and we're not either), but their spirituality piece which involves meditation and chapel, were way cool. Our son loved that part. We also saw a marked difference in academics, where there were milestones, expectations, and some structured homework (eg spelling words, word problems) which helped our son become a better student. Also some prep for standardized testing in higher grades. While issues like global warming, the needs of our community, and how to be a contributing and caring person were part of his experience, he also was learning how to succeed as an academic student in a way that would translate beyond St. Paul's doors.

      Both schools are great, and parents of one appreciate the other, but there are differences. And please remember to look beyond kindergarten when making your decision. Good luck!! A Fan of Park Day and St. Paul's

      Like you, we had a hard time deciding between Park Day and St. Paul's when our oldest child (now a 5th grader)was entering kindergarten. We chose St. Paul's, because we really liked the diversity and academics. However, we recently switched, moving both of our kids to Park Day, and are quite happy with our decision.

      Each school has some wonderful strengths. The music program at St. Paul's -- particularly after 3d grade -- is amazing. As I mentioned, the school really is diverse, economically as well as in more obvious respects such as race and sexual orientation. And the academics seem good, Science is especially impressive. Bizarrely, they didn't start teaching a foreign language (Spanish) until a few years in, though that might be changing.

      Park seems stronger in the ''liberal arts'' -- lots of emphasis on writing, creative expression, visual arts, and social studies/history. Our older child was always a strong reader, but it wasn't until he started at Park that he began to love reading (tho that might just be a coincidence), and our 2nd grader has gone from being hesitant about reading on her own to being a really avid reader. Spanish starts in kindergarten. On the down side, the math and science are, frankly, stronger at St. Paul's. (Tho I have heard that it improves greatly in 6th grade, when the kids spend half their time with a teacher who specializes in math and science). And, while, Park is not as thoroughly diverse as St. Paul's (I don't think any school is) it does pretty good -- probably better in terms of LGBT families -- and is really committed to social justice, community and global awareness issues.

      The biggest difference is the warm and nurturing feeling of the environment at Park. Kindness seems to be the school ethos, and you really feel it. But that does not mean indulgence: our kids have been in classes with potentially disruptive kids in both schools. The difference is that at Park, we saw those kids managed in a way that kept them included and cared for, without letting their problems become everyone else's.

      Other pluses at Park: the campus is lovely (if small), while St. Pauls feels like a nice urban public school; the new(ish) Park middle school is said to be fantastic; and we like that kids stay in the lower school through 6th grade (which seems too young to throw kids into the middle school whirlwind).

      I hope this is helpful to you -- probably either choice will be a good one; they are both fine schools. Good luck.

      I have had experience at both schools, although my St. Paul’s experience is just with the middle school. Our older son went to Park Day from Kindergarten through sixth grade. We moved him to St. Paul’s for 7th and 8th. Like you describe your son, ours is self-directed, articulate, and social. We also have a younger son who is still at Park Day and will probably stay there through middle school.

      Almost without exception both of our sons have had great experiences at Park Day. There was not one day in my older son’s seven years at the school when he said he didn’t like school or didn’t want to go to school. Same so far for my younger son. They have had wonderful teachers who took the time to get to know them and always enjoyed them. The small class size at Park Day gives teachers the time to focus on each kid. Kids do a lot of work in groups and with partners and get to move around a lot, which was important for both of my energetic sons. Park Day seems to get a bad rap for its academics, but the curriculum is strong (and constantly being reviewed and revised) and lively, and kids learn what they need to learn. I think the fact that the kids have fun learning it makes people question whether the school is feeding enough of the core subjects. My older son did fine, transitioned to St. Paul’s middle school with no problems, and is now at a highly academic high school. My younger son excels in math, and his teacher ensures that he is challenged in that subject on a daily basis. So, kids do get what they need at Park Day, and the school is able to meet the needs of many different kinds of kids, from those who naturally excel at academics to those who need more support. A comment about the facilities: The beautiful, open Park Day campus contributes in a very important way to the children’s experience. The kids have a lot of space and a lot of freedom, get to be outdoors a ton, get to garden, play sports, etc. They love the space and that adds to their positive school experience. And finally, the school does a really good job at keeping parents informed about what’s going on in the classrooms and in the school as a whole—a thorough, lengthy, and readable weekly newsletter from the administration and regular newsletters and emails from teachers. Plus, it’s easy to have a quick chat with teachers because the campus/buildings are so accessible. Parents are always hanging around and chatting before and after school.

      St. Paul’s has some wonderful qualities—the diversity and the music program are standouts--but we found St. Paul’s to be much more traditional than we had expected, both in terms of the curriculum (we didn't find it particularly exciting), and discipline (my son witnessed many detentions being handed out). Overall, while my son handled it all just fine, it wasn’t a great match for our family. There were many disruptive kids in his group;—not sure if that was a fluke for his year or a more general problem at the school. The classes were large (24 to a class in middle school), and I didn’t get the sense that all of his teachers really knew him. Plus, the facilities turned out to be a big drawback. My older son was excited about the very urban setting, but as the months wore on and he had to line up to go anywhere, eat lunch surrounded by goose poop at the lake, etc., he really missed the old freedoms of Park Day’s space. Finally, I was not satisfied with the amount of communication from the St. Paul’s administration to parents. The school sent out a very short, weekly newsletter, but it was more of a schedule of upcoming events, rather than an insight into the classrooms, curriculum, and general goings-on. Middle school teachers sent emails, but those were mostly a list of upcoming assignments. Also, because parents pretty much have to drive through and drop off their kids, there just aren’t regular opportunities to stick your head in a classroom after school and have a quick chat with a teacher. Please keep in mind that our experience at St. Paul's was only at the middle school level. Good luck with your school choice

      Oct 2008

      Re: Middle School for an un-enthusiastic learner
      We've had a very good experience at Park Day School (we have an eighth grader and a fifth grader at the school). Park Day seems to strike an excellent balance particularly in the middle school between academics taught with real verve and creativity and the arts, particularly drama and music. There is also dance in seventh and eighth grade, but that doesn't appeal so much to our teenage boy.

      I think the style of education at Park really does encourage students to enjoy learning. The 7th and 8th grade math, science and language arts teachers are particularly exceptional, I think. Well worth checking it out. I'm happy to tell you more offline if you wish. -Tracey

      Dec 2007

      Re: Peaceful, Kind, Elementary School in Oak/Berk???
      There are several very good elementary schools that teach peace, environmental responsibility and non-violence, no bullying, etc. Our 10 year old son goes to Park Day School and has been there since kindergarten. It has a nice balance of technology/computers in the classrooms with basic core values of kindness, sharing, greening, no guns/violent play. The older kids read a lot, the games are focused on kind playing, there is soccer, but no football on campus, etc. The older kids buddy up with the younger ones, for reading buddies, etc. The kids are taught to be an ally/friend, rather than an opponent to little ones or those left out. They have a campus garden and are the first campus to go ALL GREEN, meaning no/limited trash, composting and all recycling. Emphasis on healthy lunches, with a 'ban' on 100% sugar treats in lunches and no play guns or other violent games brought to school. It's quite amazing to see the difference on this campus, when kids are given the opportunity to channel their energies positively. The teaching staff is the BEST in the area. Jane

      Jan 2007

      Re: Private middle schools in the east bay
      You should consider Park Day School, which now includes grades 7 and 8. It's a wonderful place, the perfect blend of dynamic academics, a broad-based curriculum that includes community activism and social justice, sports, music, theater, Spanish, dance. The staff is committed and of long tenure. The director, Tom Little, is fantastic. It's a really special school. The 6th grade classes are with the elementary school on the Main Campus. The kids move to the nearby Community Campus when they reach 7th grade. The philosophy is that 6th grade is still elementary, and I think they're right. My daughter's started in Kindergarten and is now in 3rd grade, and her experience has been wonderful all the way. Try it! wwwdotparkdayschooldotorg

      March 2006

      Re: Academically strong and liberal private school
      Take a look at Park Day School in Oakland. Progressive education with emphasis on social justice. Strong academics and a really fun place for kids. Very, very liberal politically. Diverse socio-economically and ethnically.

      Jan 2006

      I am trying to figure out Middle School options for my ''normalish''(not alternative,geeky,artistic,or a jock) friendly ,kind,bright, athletic son who struggles in the academic areas.He will be coming out of a Public School and I h ave concerns that our Middle School just wont work for him. Any comments regarding 6th grade transfers into St.Pauls or Park Day (Community School) How well do these schools do in supporting kids with learning challenges(differances).What is the social scene,how many of you in the elementary grades will continue on to the middle school grades?(i.e. If you plan on moving your kids out of Park and not continuing on to Community,why)Whats the longer range impact of not testing,grading etc... ...We really do want a nice,friendly ,warm,nurturing and inclusive atmosphere Thanks for any input!!
      Another Mother Trying To Figure It All Out !!!

      I would highly recommend Park Day/Community School for your son. My older son had a similar profile - bright, fun, athletic, with various learning differences - and had a good experience at Park Day and absolutely thrived at Community School. He is now a happy, confident, well prepared high schooler. Socially, the scene at both schools is generally very inclusive and welcoming - particularly at Community School there is a wide range of ''types'', interests, styles, etc., and the school really is a community, not clickish at all. Very warm and nurturing, and at the same time gives students a lot of freedom to be themselves. The staff really loves working with 13 and 14 year olds, something that I think is quite rare. In terms of learning differences, they are well understood and supported. Depending on the particular needs of your child, you may need to provide some outside support, but the teachers really look at what works for each child and are flexible and accomodating. For example, for the 7/8th grade science classes, students may be given different types of test, depending on whether they are more comfortable with multiple choice, essay, or whatever. The tests are really about understanding the material, and not about how well you take a test. So any student who doesn't do well, can re-take a test. In terms of long range impact of no grades and no standardized tests (there are some tests at both schools in classes, although it is only one of many forms of assessing mastery of subject matter), from my experience it has only been positive. My son was always test phoebic, didn't test well, didn't want to take the tests before middle school (which we didn't end up doing), but now that he is in high school and developmentally ready, he is willingly preparing for PSATs and SATs - I'm sure it will be a much less stressful experience now and ultimately much more productive. He has a lso done fine on tests in class (there aren't a lot of them at his school) and they don't freak him out anymore. Also, when he got his first high school report cards with letter grades (which he is doing very well) his reaction was ''I wish they would tell me more about how I am doing - this is just a letter''. I think the use of assessments rather than just grades really encourages students to understand themselves and think about themselves as learners and people.

      Finally, my younger child is now a very happy 6th grader at Park, and we didn't even consider looking at any other schools for 7th and 8th - my kid can't wait to get to the ''Community Campus''! Hope this helps - good luck!
      happy mom of happy kids

      October 2005

      Re: Oakland Elementary school for possible learning delays
      I have two children at Park and have been very happy and satisfied with our experience there. My son is now in the eighth grade at the new Community Campus, and my daughter is in the fourth grade. Both have been at Park since kindergarten. Park's environment is warm and nurturing; the teachers and staff really KNOW each child. Somehow, Park has a reputation for being less ''academic'' than some other schools- I can only say that,when I compare it to what I know of these other schools, it seems to me that kids at Park learn just as much-or more- by having FUN! When they graduate from Park they are entusiastic life-long learners, who know how to think and reason for themselves. They go on to a variety of middle and high schools and do extremely well. My two kids have totally different learning and social styles;my son learns quickly and ea! sily and was always challenged and excited by the curriculm. He loves school and truly looks forward to each school day. I can remember that during his first years at Park he described it as his''second home'' and the staff as ''my second family''. The recent merge with Community School, which makes PDS a K-8 school is yet another reason to apply to Park.

      My daughter has struggled with ''learning differences'' and has received lots of extra help in order to succeed. She now is a hard working student who(deservedly) takes great satisfaction in her acheivements. Her learning problems were picked up early on in her school career,and she has benifited greatly from the extra tutoring she has received. She also loves going to school and is excited by all she learns there.

      Both kids have thrived socially at Park, and the wonderfully diverse school community has also been a source of comfort and friend! ship for our whole family. I can wholeheartedly recommend Park Day School!
      Happy Park parent

      August 2005

      Re: Which private school?
      I have a daughter who's entering 2nd grade at Park Day (she's been there since kindergarten), and I can't say enough good things about the school. I think that Park is often viewed from the outside as a looser, perhaps less academic school, but when you really look at what's happening in Park classrooms, you'll see kids doing amazing things and graduating from 6th grade fully prepared to enter and compete at Head-Royce or Bentley. My daughter's 1st grade experience was wonderful -- every kid in her class became an enthusiastic reader, writer, mathematician, and scientist during the year. She had homework just once a week, given on Thursday, due on Tuesday. And her reading/writing skills are superior to many kids who are drilled intensely on phonics, as the approach at Park is a whole language approach. The teachers are dedicated and truly appreciated, they give their all, and the school community is a marvel. Park Day truly backs up its committment to educating children not just in the academics, but also in creating community and becoming good people/citizens. Lauren

      August 2005

      Re: Which private school?
      Our daughter is going into 2nd grade at Park Day and pretty much fits the description of your soon-to-be kindergartner. Park Day has been an amazing fit for her so far. The kindergarten year was a perfect transition year for her - with the small class size and focus on social/emotional development, our daughter felt part of a community, part of a group, for the first time in her life and that was so valuable. She was reading in kinderga! rten and had a new teacher who wasn't as good at finding academic challenges for her, but that was okay - it was kindergarten and the social challenges she was experiencing helped her grow tremendously, we knew the academics would come. In first grade, her teacher challenged her when she was open to being challenged, assessed her academic strengths quite quickly and easily, and spent the entire year stimulating her, engaging her, and helping her grow both academically and socially. She was constantly offering our daughter more challenging books and reading/writing assignments and offering her extra math work so long as my daughter was open to it. At times, she just wanted to be like everyone else and her teacher completely honored that. More importantly, my daughter got one-on-one help navigating the complex social relationships of first grade in a way that I can't imagine happening anywhere else.&nbs! p;

      Feel free to write if you have more questions or want more details. I'm sure there are other families in the upper grades who can respond to the academic issues of the upper grades, but know that many of the kids we know at Park in 4th grade had ample amounts of homework (not necessarily 3 hours per night). I believe that no matter what kind of child you have, there will be strong years and weak years in school wherever you go. jls

      May 2005

      Re: Elementary school in S. berkeley/N.Oakland
      I would highly recommend Park Day School, located in the Temescal area in North Oakland. Both my children have had a wonderful experience. Park Day takes the whole child approach, combining a rich hands-on program, with equal concern for emotional and social growth and well being. Students learn how to communicate and resolve conflicts and how to care about the world they live in and the people around them. A fantastic staff, great parent community, and wonderful program. Check out their website at a satisfied parent

      March 2005

      Please share your experiences about the aftercare programs and lunch/recess times at Aurora, Berkwood Hedge and Park Day schools. Is there enough adult supervision? Is teasing or bullying noticed and adequately addressed? What happens on a rainy day? Are younger children separated from older children? What do you think about the quality of afterschool enrichment programs? Thank you for your responses to any of these questions as to any of these schools.
      Grateful for Your Thoughts!

      I just came from dropping my kindergartener off at Park School's ''holiday camp'' which is run by the after school program on days when the school is on vacation. I think the after school program at Park is wonderful, as is everything about Park. Not only is there plenty of supervision, but the culture of the school ingrains compassionate and caring behavior into the children from day one. When my child first started at the school, I was amazed at the way the older kids watched out for the kindergarteners -- not only integrating them into their games, but making special ''kindergarten'' exceptions to the rules because the kindergarteners were getting frustrated because they were getting ''out'' too often. I remember watching a 3rd grade boy tell my sniffling son and his friend, ''i know how you feel, when I was in kindergarten I wasn't very good at this game either, but you'll get better if you keep playing.'' So sweet! And completely unprompted by adult intervention. I've seen many many similar interactions at lunch and after school. Sure there are times when kids are mean to other kids, but it is always dealt with promptly and thoughtfully. At one point my son complained that some second graders were being mean to him and his friends (which meant that they were dominating the monkey bars and not letting the younger kids use them). His teacher set up a ''play date'' with the 2nd grade class in question so that the kindergarteners and second graders could get to know each other and the problem disappeared.
      loves Park

      Feb 2005

      Re: Gay Friendly Schools in Oakland
      To the family considering moving to Oakland to have their child attend Park Day School: I cannot respond to your questions about high school, and about East Bay vs. S.F. But I can strongly support your considering Park Day School for your child and your family. We are an LGBT family and I cannot recommend it highly enough for it's integration of LGBT families and kids. We feel very good about the social- emotional foundation our kids are receiving at Park coming from a ''different'' family, and their exposure and comfort with families of all types there. It is an excellent school in many other ways as well, of course! anon

      Feb 2005

      Re: Gay Friendly Private Schools
      Park Day School in Oakland is a very welcoming place for gay families. We are straight parents at Park, but many of the families we know are gay and pleased with Park. One of the highlights for me was a couple of years ago during ''Care week.'' Each yar, Park devotes a whole week to exploration of an aspect of being a caring community -- other years have included weeks focused on bullying, disability, gender, etc. This particular year, the focus was on GLBT issues. Understanding of GLBT issues and families were presented across grade levels in ways that were very appropriate for each grade. For instance, the younger grades (my daughter was in 2nd that year) had a lesbian mom come in, or a gay firefighter etc. and talk about their lives with the kids. The older grades had more sophisticated discussions and activities. Several weeks later my daughter was doing a research project and came across the phrase ''home sapiens''. I was surprised she knew what that was so I asked her if she understood what it was. Very assuredly she told me she did -- that ''home sapiens'' were men who married other men. :-) Anyway, Park actively tries to reach out to GLBT families in admissions and encourages GLBT families to refer others to the school. Ilana

      October 2004

      I'm writing to inquire about Park Day School. Our son will be going to kindergarten next fall and we've looked at several schools already with a few more to go. I've read previous feedback regarding Park Day School, but just wanted a bit more feedback. I know it has a progressive philosophy with a diverse and nurturing environment, which is why I love it. But are there any hard facts about success in traditional evnvironments after Park Day? Do we went to give our son the privilege of a holistic education? Absolutely. Do we want to stimulate his intellect, his desire to learn, and provide him with every tool possible to be a successful and productive human being? Absolutely. Is it possible to do this in one place? I'm not so sure. I guess at a certain point you've got to go on faith and intuition, but it's hard to make the leap. Two other schools we really like are Redwood Day and Black Pine Circle. Any feedback, positive or negative on any of these schools would be appreciated. Sincerely, Wanting to be convinced..... anonymous

      I have sent two children to Park Day School and want to say the academics are terrific! The teachers are fantastic and they present innovative, creative and challenging lessons to the kids. While the school plays close attention to developing the social and emotional needs of kids, it also makes sure students are well trained in the fundamentals. The school has a project- based curriculum, so instead of worksheets and memorization drills, kids use games and projects to learn. My oldest daughter went from K-6 at Park and guess where she is now, in 7th grade -- Head-Royce, a much more traditional school. Six students from Park entered Head-Royce this year and all of them are doing very well -- all As and Bs. It's a great place and I would be happy to talk to anyone who wants to know more. Frances

      To the parent who was concerned about whether Park Day School can be academically challenging at the same time it is diverse, nurturing and progressive, I say YES, YES AND YES! I have twin boys who graduated from Park Day School last summer and are now in 7th grade at Head Royce. We just received our first progress reports, and the boys are doing extremely well in their new, more traditionally academic environment. In addition, teachers commented on how much they each offer to their class. This favorable feedback has a lot to do with the kind of education they received at Park. Nurturing, for example, is not only about comfort and care. Nurturing engenders confidence, trust and a belief in one's own abilities. There is a spirit of encouragement at Park which invites kids to ask questions, be an advocate and solve problems both academically and socially. Diversity is not just a number or a percentage, it is woven into the curriculum through areas of study, and also through the information, rituals, and special traditions that the kids themselves or their parents bring into the classroom. Park challenges each child to develop a conscience about their friends, school community and world. It challenges them to think independently, critically and thoughtfully. It also teaches the power of brainstorming, cooperative learning and sharing of ideas. Guided and instructed by phenomenally dedicated, energetic and knowledgeable teachers, these kids learn to set their own standards. And their capabilities are astounding! Park pushes kids academically by supporting the potential of each child. In a way, kids come through Park with a maturity and breadth of understanding that many don't achieve until adulthood. They are allowed to be unique thinkers and are equipped with the most powerful tools for academic achievement: confidence, curiosity, resourcefulness and wisdom - oh, and knowledge, too.

      Other parents at Head Royce have commented on the work ethic and diligence of kids from Park. I like to believe that this comes from a curriculum rich in engaging projects that spurs kids to want to learn. Within a dynamic academic program, kids become intrinsically motivated and fully engaged learners at Park. And, yes, they have math tests and spelling quizzes, too. They really do get the basics.

      p I remember when my husband and I were looking at elementary schools, loaded with handouts and dizzy from hearing all the talks, we asked ourselves, "Do I feel comfortable in this environment?" "What's the sense I get from the classroom or playground?" "Would I be happy in a school like this?" And then, thankfully, we trusted our instincts. Ali

      Hi, I went to Park Day School from 2nd to 6th grade (graduated in 1992). I have nothing but positive things to say about the school and the teachers. I am now 25, graduated magna cum laude from Cal State Hayward, and have been working for a fortune 500 company for 2 years now. Because the emphasis at Park Day is on holistic education, you don't see that blatant pressure to acheive ''high standards''that you see at many other ''academic'' schools. But that doesn't mean that the students aren't extremely successful. If you want more examples, ask to see a copy of the school newsletter - there is an alumni news section that is full of success stories. Good luck with your decision, and please email me if you have any more questions. a.o

      My child attends Park Day School and I can assure you that it is an excellent school academically. As a progressive school, Park is accustomed to being asked this question -- and if you want actual data on how the kids do after Park, they keep that information in the admissions office. Call Flo Hodes (the Assistant Director) and she will tell you where the kids go on for middle and high school, and also college. The teachers at Park are very intelligent, intellectually-alive people. The educational philosophy at Park is one where the emphasis is more on the process of learning and the love of learning -- not on memorization of facts. However, they are keenly aware that these kids will go on to schools were testing scores will be used, and so the kids are taught how to take standardized tests in 6th grade so they are prepared for them in the 7th grade and beyond. One thing that impresses me about the academics is how thoroughly the kids are immersed in the concepts and skills they are learning -- the material is integrated into their math, their language arts, their spanish, their science, their art, that they are engaging their minds on many levels. (As an aside -- Park is going to extend through 8th grade, so within the next few years it will be a K-8 school.) Feel free to e-mail me if you want to talk about Park further! Heath

      My experience may be a few years old, but our take on Park Day was that it is a very sweet school but not really able to meet the needs of a child who shows particular giftedness in math, for example, and the school, going a few years back, was clear with us that accelerating a child with certain academic gifts was not a priority--that helping children be good citizens was. That said, I have learned that the most academically rigorous or zealous environment may promote learning less than an environment of emotional safety and warmth. I think a bright child, who is a self-starter, would emerge just fine from PD. As an extra bonus, Park Day has a nice leafy yard on a hot, sunny day. Nothing's Perfect

      My sons went to Park Day School, the older one through 3rd grade, and the younger one through kindergarten, and we left only because my family has recently moved to Colorado. Park Day School is the single thing I miss the most about the Bay Area, and I truly grieve that my kids couldn't stay there throughout their elementary years. While we were there, the academic issue often came up, especially from parents who thought well of Park Day but sent their kids to other schools. I was therefore apprehensive about moving my children to a new school and having them be behind academically. They were not. They stepped into a new school and school system, somewhat more traditional, without any problem. What's more, my older son has some learning disabilities, but I credit Park Day with observing this early and helping him to get appropriate support. He negotiated the transition to a new school with amazing confidence. Finally, my children are far more sophisticated than many of their peers: last year when I was bewailing the fact that many of my college-age students were baffled when I mentioned the United Nations, my older son said, ''It seems like I know more about what's going on in the world than they do.'' Park Day School respects children enough to engage with them on difficult social issues, addressing (in age appropriate ways) such issues as disability rights, being allies for gays and lesbians, and working for peace. I will always remain grateful that my children thrived and learned there. Elizabeth

      Sept 2004

      As the time approaches to consider touring schools, I strongly recommend families who are considering a socially progressive, developmentally based, culturally rich and diverse program for their child to come to a tour at Park Day School. There are several recommendations about Park on the website -- check them out. We are a community that is strongly committed to diversity and consequently our community is stronger for it. Families of color, interracial families, GLBT families, kids with different learning styles, single parents, are well represented in our school. If you have any questions about Park you can e-mail me directly -- or contact them at 653-0317. Our child loves going to school, as do his classmates -- and we feel very much at home in the community there. Heath

      November 2003

      My two sons go to Park Day School and my family is entirely happy with the school. I just spent the morning making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a local food bank with a lot of sticky, happy kindergartners. I love that Park Day gives children the opportunity to participate in the community and make a positive difference in the world from the beginning of their education. The school's emphasis on community and social justice is very important to me.

      To a one, my children's teachers have been skilled, creative, and caring. They do ambitious, dazzling projects that often integrate learning from multiple disciplines. My third grade son is combining history, literature, and science in his study of Native Americans this fall.

      Park Day School is a wonderful place. The schoolyard is a little Eden. The children, their parents, and the staff at the school are all people I look forward to seeing every day.


      My son transferred from 3rd grade at Mills College Children's School last year to 4th grade at Park Day School this year, and we have been very impressed with Park Day as well. The sense of community there is very strong and welcoming; we feel that we're in a group of people that is very principled, generous, and committed to the school community. There is a strong emphasis on social conscience, and on behaving in a principled way towards others. The director of the school is a thoughtful, conscientious and kind leader, and he sets a great example for the kids (and the parents too!). They have been very welcoming to our son, and we are so happy we moved. (I'm a faculty member at Mills College). Lisa

      The first time we visited Park Day School, we watched as two children collided in play. Instantly, these children were surrounded. “Are you okay?” was the refrain. Tears were wiped away, hands outstretched for help. Almost as quickly, play resumed. It wasn’t for our benefit these children helped each other; it is the story of the playground at this extraordinary school. We sent our first son to Park because of the kindness of these children. It didn’t hurt that there were trees and more trees, flowers vegetables, swings, slides, sand and water; that the classrooms were full of love and art and humor and music; that we came to respect and adore the beloved teachers; that we learned we were part of a community which held out collective hands to help us, to help each other up.

      At Park School, there are traditions that make for community: care week, cultures’ day, a day of sharing, author’s night, all school sing, storyteller night. Each kindergartner has a secret 6th grade buddy and all children have reading buddies from different grades. Each class is involved in community outreach; younger grades make sandwiches, pack food bags for a neighboring school; kindergarten and 1st grade visit the ladies at the Matilda Brown home; 2nd graders make activity baskets for sick children at Children’s Hospital; 3rd graders serve at a soup kitchen; 4th graders focus on recycling/environment; 5th graders read to preschoolers in Oakland and the 6th graders sponsor an ambitious book drive.

      Grade by grade, the curriculum is inspiring. I will never forget the second grade teacher’s beaming face as our son walked to the podium to speak the words: “I am Bishop Desmond Tutu.” That same year, our son learned about Duke Ellington, Romare Beardon, Gonesha, Helen Keller and his own greatgrandmother. We have three children at Park now; the things they learn, the gifts they are given are remarkable. Our children are unique, included and loved well at Park, where, by a complex mix of grace, awe and respect, all mutual, these teachers and children hold each other.

      Lastly, for our biracial sons, we have been encouraged by Park's commitment to diversity, to a school population reflecting the economic, racial, ethnic, and lifestyle diversity of the communities in which we live and work. Park's educational programs, admission policies and financial assistance grants fully support this principle. agrigsby

      I'd like to post a strong recommendation for Park Day School for all parents, but particularly I want to welcome gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered parents to consider Park for their child(ren). As a two-mom family we feel absolutely at home in the Park community -- it is a model school in many, many ways -- the curriculum, the focus on social-emotional growth and well-being, the creativity and joy that is expressed and cultivated there -- the academic excellence -- I could say a lot about this school. The culture of the school is one which not only values diversity but does a lot to cultivate, honor, and grow from it's diversity...including active outreach and providing healthy financial aid support to families who otherwise would not be able to consider such a high-quality private school.

      The sensitivity toward, and genuine celebration of alternative families has been a wonderful experience for us and for our children.

      Please consider contacting the admissions director, Flo Hodes, and ask her for parent contacts who you can speak with directly if you are interested in learning more about Park! The school keeps a list of parents from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, gay and lesbian, etc so that you can speak directly with parents about their experiences at Park. CM

      October 2003

      Re: Racially Diverse Private Schools

      Consider Park Day School in Oakland at 43rd St. between Broadway and Telegraph ( They have an excellent diversity program and it's not lip service- it's the real deal. Excellent and enthusiastic teachers and administration, with great emphasis on respect for all and developmentally appropriate curriculum. - A happy parent

      I suggest that you visit Park Day School in North Oakland. We chose Park Day for our three biracial sons (K, 4th and 5th) because of the school's commitment to diversity, community service and academic excellence. In my kindergartner's class, there are African American, Latino, biracial and multiracial, LGBT and single parent families. My son's kindergarten teacher is African-American. Our family is very comfortable at Park Day as it is committed to a school population that reflects the economic, racial, ethnic, and lifestyle diversity of the communities in which we live and work. Park's educational programs, admission policies, and financial assistance grants fully support these principles. For families who apply to Park, the school offers an e-mail contact list (made up of e-mail adddresses from current African-American, Latino, Asian, biracial, multiracial, LGBT, single parent and adoptive families) which has been helpful for families with diverse backgrounds as they can communicate parent to parent about the Park experience. Throughout out the admissions season, the school offers tours for prospective parents, including evening tours. Visit the website at htttp:// agrigsby

      Please consider Park Day School (43rd St. in Oakland--beautiful wooded campus between Broadway and Telegraph).

      While many schools ''talk the talk'' about wanting a diverse student body, Park truly ''walks the walk''--with a deep commitment toward actively recruiting families of color. The commitment to diversity is part of an overarching philosophy of learning that fosters respect for the richness inherent in our cultural, racial, and socio-economic differences.

      From the Park Day School ''philosophy of education'': ''When children leave Park Day School, we want them on their way to be caring, constructive, open-minded members of the adult world. We want them to be equipped to live in a diverse society and to be comfortable with the ways in which they are alike and different from others. We want them to be able to recognize the biases that exist in society and to develop and articulate their own values.''

      I could wax poetic about Park Day (and would be happy to do so if you'd like to call me at (510) 841-4608.) Diversity is just one of its many, many virtues! Check out the website:

      Now is the time to tour the campus. You can call (510) 653-0317 to talk with Flo Hodes (Assistant Director and Admissions Coordinator). Park always receives more applications that spots available, so apply soon.

      Good luck! Linda

      Sorry, I don't know anything about schools near Hercules. But since your post indicate you are looking at private schools in Oakland as well, I'd like to mention a couple that have and highly value racial diversity. Park Day School is a wonderfully diverse (both racially and economically) school that offers a rich experience both academically and as a community. The school actively recruits diverse families of all kinds. As a single parent who has been at Park Day for several years, I've been very pleased with the kids, values and differences my child has been exposed to -- their work is a lot of what has made him the special kid he is today. Hope the info is helpful, and good luck in your search. School Mom

      January 2003

      We are still pinching ourselves that we were lucky enough
      to have our son enrolled in Park Day School this year,
      which features
      * a warm, kind community where 6th graders enjoy playing with kindergarteners (!),
      * dedicated teachers who have spent over 20 years constantly challenging themselves to come up with innovative ways to educate,
      * a wonderful campus with lots of trees and vegetables and space for baseball games and playing house,
      * an academically rigorous (but supportive) environment where music, languages and social education are as highly valued as reading, math and science.

      -- thankful family

      My son is in 2nd grade at Park Day School in Oakland. Evey single day I am grateful that he is there and for the people that work with him. The sense of community at the school has really warmed and impressed me. The school offers enrichment in Spanish, art, and music, but they also have a full time staff person devoted to community outreach, so even in kindergarten, my son was making sandwiches for needy kids and bagging up food for a food bank. We just finished ''care week'' in which the kids studied peacemaking, and had special curriculum and visiting speakers to teach about peacemaking. The teachers are really loving and attentive to the kids. AND there's a fabulous play yard where they can really play and stretch their legs.

      Is there a down side to Park Day? Some people think it is not academic enough. My own background in alternative education and subsequent success in competitive academic institutions causes me to feel little worry on that count. It is a little hard for me to gauge my son's progress in traditional terms because he was diagnosed last year with mild dyslexia. I will say that Park Day caught it early, that their learning specialist has worked closely with him, and that she spent tons of time giving me referrals and information. There is even a parent support group for kids with learning differences.

      No place is perfect, but I feel that Park Day School has been as close as we are likely to get. I love that school. If you feel it might be a good match for your child and family, I strongly encourage you to apply.


      October 2001

      My daughter goes to the best school in the Bay Area, as far as I'm concerned. Park Day school. Thier philosophy is based on meeting the student at the student level, in the way the student learns best. They will meet your child individually where that child is and help that child learn and want to learn. When you speak of strong academics, I'm wondering if you're referring to something like French American International School where they apply strict European highly regimented academics (great for some, possibly does not foster independent thinking...). Park Day, which does not apply regimented aggresive academics, but includes academics in cooking, creating books and so on, is an incredible, progressive school that is famous for it's continuing attention and growth in educational thinking. They shun standardized testing, but start testing in about 3rd grade to teach their students HOW to test. It is done in a way that fosters a willing intelligence and an application of knowledge of study, rather than fear and competitiveness. Schools that receive 7th graders from Park Day rant about our students, who go on to excell in other schools. The school director just went on sabbatical during which he was a fellow at Teachers College in NY with numerous other heads of school for an intensive phase of study and interactive theory of education. This shows me that this school is continuing to be on the cutting edge of education, and is run by highly intellectual individuals. In addition, they integrate with other schools, children are involved in community service from day one and the teachers are idealistic, kind and loving. Go visit and check out the classrooms, or talk to other parents. Alcina


      I'm a Park Day parent and I have to disagree with the parent who wrote in questioning the academic rigor of Park. In a nutshell, we love Park Day School. The teachers are superb, the community close-knit, we love the diversity and our daughter loves the school. (Our daughter is now in her third year at Park and our son will start in the fall in kindergarten.) I also think the academics are superb.

      I should also say that the approach to learning at Park is very different from what most of us had as children. The traditional approach to learning emphasizes drilling, memorization, rote learning, testing and grades. I don't know Head Royce super well, but I would venture to say that because it is a more traditional school, you will see these traditional approaches used much more readily than you do at Park. So when parents question the academic rigor of Park, I think what they are really struggling with is the actual style and approach to learning. It's hard to let go of that tape from our childhood that says the traditional approach to learning is the best, the tried and true method.

      I can tell you that after having spent countless hours volunteering in the classroom over the last three years, kids at Park love learning and they love going to school. When the kids leave Park, they have honed a general approach to learning: they know how to ask questions and get information, and they have strong self-esteem and confidence in their abilities. Each child doesn't leave the school academically brilliant, because we all aren't; but they leave feeling good about themselves and they know how to learn.(Interestingly, a friend of mine who was looking at Park and Head Royce for her kindergartener, told me that the assistant director at Head Royce told her that Head Royce teachers particularly enjoy the kids from Park Day School who go on to Head Royce for middle school. They find that Park kids are independent, self-starters who love learning. They are often times leaders because of their strong problem-solving abilities.)

      I can also tell you that my daughter reads and writes and spells well. (And yes, she even takes a weekly spelling test, though somehow her classroom teacher manages to even make that fun.) My daughter doesn't receive grades, though the parents do meet with the classroom teacher twice a year for a thorough school conference, after which we receive a several paged report describing our daughter in depth. During the Spring conference our daughter will be present so that she can present her own work and discuss ways in which she would like to grow.

      I have no doubt that Head Royce is an excellent school. The main differences I can see is that Park really emphasizes the social and emotional needs of children. Kids spend a fair amount of time at Park talking about relationships, feelings, responsibilities and choices, and problem-solving. My understanding is that this doesn't happen at Head Royce to the same degree. Also, Park's diversity is extraordinary. Park emphasizes diversity in every form, including reaching out to gay and lesbian families and low-income families. Park is very generous with financial aid, because a school has to be willing to pay for true diversity. -- a parent

      I am a parent of a Park Day student, and a few days ago I introduced myself to a couple who arrived at Park Day as school was starting. I could tell by their tentative approach they were newcomers and sure enough, they had received word that their child had been accepted and they were looking the school over to try and reach a final decision.

      In the two years since our daughter came to Park Day my wife and I have become ardent supporters of the school and its philosophy of education and I waxed enthusiastic in an unsolicited gush of positive feelings. I spoken to them about my own understanding of PDS's emphasis on promoting "emotional intelligence" in children, as well as the school's method of integrating the classroom and grades in such a way that team cooperation is learned and encouraged and a meaningful sense of community is fostered.

      A few minutes later I was speaking with another parent who had been in touch with the same couple earlier and learned that they were a professional couple whose major concern rested with securing for their child a firm grounding in academics and they had heard that "academics" was not a first priority at Park Day. Something about that idea, of Park Day being perceived as not an academic school, kept bothering me throughout the day. Finally, in a conversation with my spouse later that evening, I realized what was bothering me. And this open letter to you, prospective PDS parents, is an attempt to address and clarify this issue.

      Let me begin by saying that I believe that the Park Day School methods and philosophies of education are perhaps the best and most logical path to creating an intellectually stimulated individual with a life-long desire to learn, who is capable of discovering their own way in the world, fearless in the tested belief in their own unique abilities and grounded in their desire to help others.

      The myth that PDS is not academically oriented must surely rise out of the misconception that a regimented approach to "basics" is the proper path to "higher learning." Let me quote from teacher Herbert Kohl in his book, "The Discipline of Hope," where he states, "It seems foolish to concede skills issues to... people who advocated obedience, overly structured learning and mechanical performance, when skills have everything to do with the development of intelligence and sensibility, and for young people, of an awareness that the life of the mind is an abiding source of power and joy."

      I don't know that we really understood this when we first put our daughter in PDS. But we had a sense of it. In walking the hallways, in peeking in the rooms during class, in the faces of the students and the teachers, there was a flavor of something that made us turn to each other that first night after orientation and say, "Gee, I wish we could go here."

      But we know it now. And we rejoice in it. We see the results--both in our own child and the children of others. We understand it in the fact that the graduates of PDS are the leaders in the schools they go on to, the achievers of excellence in the academic and social arenas. I could go on and on but I suggest that you read the Parents Handbook. Most of the concepts about the school are clearly elucidated. Perhaps PDS doesn't look or feel like other schools. There's a real good reason for that.


      Park Day School Bridge-K

      March 2012

      For anyone looking at Bridge Kindergarten programs, our experience with Park Day was over-the-top positive. First off, it was formed by a master teacher with over 30 years of early childhood teaching experience. As an elementary school educator myself, I look at her as a guru of early childhood education. There is always a wide range of learners, styles, strengths and abilities in any Bridge K classroom and the same can be expected in Kindergarten for that matter. What wowed me about Park's program was how the teacher got to know each child individually and helped them thrive both as learners and as community members. My son is an awesome block builder who felt great about his abilities. I loved those block building presentations where he and his building partners presented their construction to an audience of peers and parents and then fielded questions. He was not as highly skilled (yet) as a reader and writer and he got coached along just as he needed. He proudly showed us his books and journal where he drew, gave dictation and attempted his own writing. My son is now in first grade at Park Day and still pours through those priceless books he created in Bridge K. ''That was an awesome year,'' he recently remarked.

      Our son had issues come up in Bridge K and we were so appreciative of how this sage teacher handled it. She gave us an open line of warm and thoughtful communication and guided us through some pretty rough bumps our son was having. It is very possible that in other settings, he would have been lost in the shuffle. As he moved into Kindergarten, she communicated directly with his new teacher. This thread of communication continued into his current first grade year, not in a way that pigeon holed or labeled our son, he has grown and changed ton, but in a way that shows me that the teachers at Park really understand and support our child. Park Day Parent

      March 2012

      Park Day Bridge Kindergarten, a relatively new program to bridge preschool kids to Kindergarten, has not been a good experience for us and our boisterous extroverted and loud son, whom we think is wonderful. Our son is very energetic and could not be 'reigned' in to their program. Partly I felt like we were at fault for not being able to control his behavior and 'train' him to settle down and conform. In the beginning when problems arose between our son and what was going on in class, I tried hard to get him into shape and quickly realized that this caused him a great amount of stress. I was not willing to do this to him at his young age of 5 so I backed off. Watching him in class he was indeed obnoxious. While the other children sat and listened to the teacher in circle time, he would wander off and be disruptive. Something was obviously not working for everyone so I decided not to return next year. We will be sending our son to public school for Kindergarten. Park Day is an idyllic setting with wonderful caring parents and teachers, but I am not sure that always means it is a good fit for everyone. I don't think they do well with rough and tumble little boys. I also think they are still not accustomed to the developmental level of 4-5 year olds before Kindergarten. I partly thought they were still expecting too much from the younger children my son's age. And while 6 months is not much time, I actually think my son will be ready by fall to start Kindergarten by then.

      Oct 2011

      Re: Recommendations for Bridge-K programs Oakland
      Park Day School in Temescal (Oakland) has a WONDERFUL Bridge-K program. Our son is enrolled now and we couldn't be happier. It is play-based, with a ton of emotional/social-learning and warm care-taking, but combined with some structure and expectations in preparation for kindergarten. They offer some phonics, writing, etc, but that is not pushed. There is lots of art, music, science and exploration of the natural world. The teacher is just a gem, with many many years of experience, warmth, educational sophistication, and nearly super-human patience. We feel very blessed to have our son there.

      June 2011

      Re: Bridge K/Transitional K Programs?
      Our son is just finishing a year in the bridge-K class at Park Day School; it has been a wonderful year for him. He was ready for something more than preschool, but wasn't quite ready to start kindergarten. This was an ideal solution for us. The class has a much more structured environment than preschool, so the kids start to get the feel of school (they have circle time every morning). They are exposed to reading, writing, math but there is no pressure for them to learn them (yet our son has started to read with almost no coaching from us). The teacher is amazing; she has developed a very rich curriculum; filled with art, finding art in nature, recurring themes and projects, outside play and projects, science (such as studying water and its different properties), lots of socializing and play (there's a big block area and dress-up corner). There is always a focus on play and stimulating and supporting their interests. I hope this is helpful, good luck in your search! anon

      Jan 2010

      Have a look at Park Day's Bridge-K if you have a child who is not quite ready for Kindergarten either because of age requirements or development but are out- growing their current preschool. Our son is currently enrolled there and is thriving in ways we have never seen before. His teacher is Harriet Cohen. Her decades of experience are readily apparent every day as she guides the children to work and play as a group while attending to each child's individual needs. The curriculum is so rich and thought out. Go check it out. Park Day's Bridge-K is making a world of difference for our boy. He will be so much more prepared when it's time for Kindergarten. Happy Bridge-K Parent

      Park Day School Summer Camp

      Jan 2010

      Re: Low-key half day camps for just-turned 6 yr-old?
      My 7 y/o son really enjoyed his week at Park Day summer camp. It was his first experience with summer camp (and with a longer day of structured activities, since we homeschool). We were warmly welcomed the first day by junior counselors and counselors-in-training. I was welcomed to stay as long as I liked with my younger (3 y/o) child, enjoying the playground, etc. Parents drop off kids during a fairly big window of time in the morning so there wasn't a morning rush to be there at x time exactly. They offer a shorter day (3/4? time) that we did and again, there wasn't time pressure; we were welcomed to stay and play and catch up on what his day involved at our own pace. Kids of all ages seemed well held both by teachers and fellow campers (and their great counselor & CIT program). I recommend their program & my son has asked to do camp there again. a good experience

      March 2009

      I am interested in the art summer camps at Park Day because they look fabulous online and Park Day always has such a great reputation as a general school. However, the only reference for the summer camp is 6 years old. Does anyone have any recent experience and comments? Anon

      My daughter is in 5th grade this year. This will be her 6th year of attending park day during the summer. She also does other things during the summer, but generally goes to Park Day for 3 or 4 weeks. First of all I advise prospective campers to read their website and brochure....they're actually accurate and true! The camp has a great balance of indoor and outdoor time. I think the super sporty type might not feel there are enough organized sports, but there is ample opportunity for active outdoor time in a beautiful large shady campus. My daughter is very active, and always finds plenty of fun things to do during the breaks between classes and during ''club time'' (after camp). The art classes are top notch, with wonderful, interesting teachers. They all seem so engaged, and excited to be sharing their passion and profession with the kids. The projects are always unique and interesting, and the art supplies are excellent and abundant. Last year the kids made small wooden inlaid tables that were absolutely beautiful. My daughter always loves snack time, especially Moses' ''famous cinnamon bread.'' At the end of each week there is a celebration of that week's art which might include skits, dancing, exhibits, or even a fashion show. The kids love planning for this event. Moses and Judy the co-directors are just great, and will spend time really getting to know your kid. There is great attention given to the emotional wellbeing of the kids. If your child has a concern, or some challenge they are working on, they go above and beyond to assist however they can. Bottom line: My daughter has lots of interests, and has been to many many camps. This is one she returns to every year because it has truly become like a family tradition. Next year she hopes to become a Junior counselor in Training. This is a safe, fun interesting camp that I think any kid would enjoy. Definitely give it a try. Happy Art Camp Mom

      My then 6-yr-old son was at Park Day Summer Art Camp for three weeks last summer. It was very laid back. This impression was probably accentuated for me by the stark contrast from our earlier experience at the Cal Explorer Camp, which seemed hyper organized and regimented. That said, once my son got to know the routine, he loved it. I really liked the variety of projects they were doing and I liked the school campus being so pretty and safe. We're going back for at least one week this summer. Camp Galileo is also using the campus at the same time, so I don't know how that's going to work.

      Jan 2003

      I'm thinking ahead to summer camp and would like to hear comments from people about the summer camp at Park Day School. My son will be 6 years old, entering 1st grade this summer. Is this a good camp for a child's first real day camp experience (he did Cal's Explorer camp for a week this past summer)? My child is physical but not seriously into sports. He likes some crafts but he's not overly wild about them. He's very into imaginative play and is very social. I know he will adore the grounds at Park Day but want there to be more for him than just a great physical space. Please share your experiences/comments. Thanks a lot! Amy

      My step-daughter has attended the Park Day Summer Arts camp for the last two years. The first year she was happy and we were happy -- they seemed to do interesting projects, she made friends (unfortunately, many kids go for only a week or two, and she went for 6 weeks, so she was not able to hang out with the same kids every week), and she adored her teachers. Last year, something seemed out of wack. The camp seemed very unorganized, for one thing. A few examples:

      On Fridays, there is a performance and a chance to see what the kids have been working on for the week. The previous year, this usually lasted about an hour, but this time the show-and-tell lasted 90 minutes or more, mostly listening to the teachers give remarks about why the projects they planned for the kids were so cool. Frankly, I want to see more of the kids at this kind of thing, and hear less about the instructors' teaching philosophy.

      Another example is a project the kids did one week called ''take apart art.'' This involved kids disassembling things like VRCs or computers and gluing the pieces onto boards or whatnot. When we asked the instructor if the kids were being instructed in proper handling of materials (many of these items have lead and other heavy metals in them), he assured us that they had, but when we quizzed our girl about it, she said they didn't have to wash their hands, and we saw kids pretty much putting their hands in their eyes and mouths after touching the materials. The instructor, who is one of the people who runs that camp, was very cavalier when confronted about this a second time.

      The first year, when we would show up at pick up time, there was a frenzy of activity still going on, and last year kids were playing on the computer or listening to music while the teachers talked to one another, not appearing to engage with or even pay attention to the students.

      We were disappointed enough that we will look for other options next year. a little disappointed