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I realize it is open house season for schools, and I want to share my wildly positive experiences at Oakland Hebrew Day School, where my children are currently in 2nd grade and kindergarten. We moved to the East Bay 2 years ago specifically so my son could attend this school aftering touring many private schools for him (he is learning disabled).
The school is simply amazing - nurturing, treating each child as an individual and excelling in differentiated learning, challenging, and fun! There has not been a day so far where my son (and daughter, now) did NOT want to go to school.
I love the teachers' commitment to making sure each child succeeds. The small class sizes, paired with their co-teaching model, ensures that my kids receive attention from a trained teacher every day.
As a bilingual school that is faith-based, my children are learning a new language but also traditional values in a modern world. I love that they are not only learning their ABCs and 123s (albeit in a cutting-edge way that makes me question how I was taught), but how to be good people and make appropriate decisions in a sometimes confusing world.
I also wanted to state that although the school is modern Orthodox, there is great diversity in the Jewish population of the school, with many kids coming from all facets of Jewish observance, inter-faith and same-sex families. There is a great awareness and sensitivity to all types of children and family units. Even if you are doubtful, schedule a tour - you may be pleasantly surprised! Maureen K
My family actually moved to the Bay Area for this school. I have boys in fourth and second grade. The academics are amazing--the reading/writing program uses the Socratic method of discussion in the classroom so the kids become critical thinkers; in art they study great artists and then try the medium of that artist; in science, the school has created its own curriculum: Each year the kids become a new kind of scientist to study a field in depth (this year I've got an inventor and two paleontologists).
And they actually have a great physical education program (It wouldn't be my inclination to care about this except, with three boys, it matters --a lot). My oldest boy plays on a lunchtime football league that the coach set up and he loves it.
I would also say the learning style is incredibly experiential--a lot of hands on activity (one son crushed grapes with his bare feet with the rest of his class to make kosher wine this year) and a lot of interesting people coming into the classroom to teach them new things.
The teachers (and staff) are incredibly savvy about kids. We've been at two other schools elsewhere, and this isn't always a given. They are so positive and so willing to help you with the developmental hiccups that every kids experiences growing up, both in the classroom and at home. The teachers/staff collaborate and seem to work as a team; in other schools I've seen, teachers can end up seeming like free agents, each working hard in his own classroom, but not with the other staff as much.
As for the Jewish studies, I think it would suit people from a broad spectrum of observance. The program is strong, but people here do come from all backgrounds. For me, the most important part of this part of the curriculum is how it circles back, again and again, to having good character, and to helping the kids explore what it means to be a good person. Really, the best way to see if it suits you is to go check it out.
Since tour season is upon us, I wanted to let you all know about OHDS. We actually moved to the East Bay last year just so our son could attend (he is in 1st grade now), and have been blown away by his academic and personal growth. Located on a beautiful campus, OHDS is fully accredited and combines a language-immersion (Hebrew) curriculum and 21st century learning with a warm and nurturing community where values are taken seriously. The school is also very diverse, with families coming from all over the Bay Area. Thinking from a ''whole-child'' perspective, the school has a nationally-recognized art program (the art instructor even got my comic-book loving boy to learn to love crafts) and differentiated instruction, with a full-time Resource team supporting all grade levels (which we have been so happy with, as our son has sensory issues, and they have been very supportive). As for working parents, there is an after-school enrichment program until 6:00 PM, and the school provides generous financial aid; in fact, it closed a $1 million dollar matching grant for scholarship last year.
My son has flourished there. He is challenged, making friends and is learning not only his ABCs and 123s, but to be a respectful person who is part of a greater community. On top of it all, it's not just a school, but a warm community, and we, as a family, have already made good friends as well. MK
What a difficult decision we made for my child's entry to kindergarten. We were deciding between Crocker highland and Oakland Hebrew Day School. So pleased we chose OHDS. Yes, it costs but they are very generous with scholarships. We really based our decision on the fact that the kids come out of that school with such strong values and respect for adults, classmates, teachers... Also, they really meet the kids where they are and are so so loving. Happy OHDS Parent
OHDS welcomes all Jewish families and offers a dynamic learning environment for all kinds of kids. The dual curriculum prepares students for great high schools and more than that for living awesome lives with real attention to how the choices they make impact themselves and the world. The school is set in a beautiful location that is part of the curriculum with trips to the local (gorgeous) park for native plant restoration projects, hiking and visits to the nearby assisted living facility. Students learn to be leaders and they have fun in the process. A very professional and loving staff! Go for a visit! OHDS truly changed our lives for the better in countless ways! A Happy OHDS Parent!
Oakland Hebrew Day has been a fabulous school for my daughters. There is such a deep sense of connection, creativity, respect and relationship among and between students and faculty and staff -- and the academics are really strong, too. OHDS Parent
We're considering both Tehiyah and Oakland Hebrew Day School for our child, who will begin kindergarten next fall. I'd love to hear from parents who have considered both. We are not orthodox at all - don't keep a kosher kitchen and are not shomer shabbat, and wonder about fitting in at OHDS. I'm also concerned about the distance from our home in Oakland to Tehiyah, and whether we'll be spending half our lives driving all over for playdates, school events, etc. Thanks for your input! Mom of a soon-to-be-kindergartener
There is a school bus for kids that live in Berkeley and Oakland.
Regarding your concern about driving because of playdates, etc., I don't think you need to worry. You'll find many of your child's friends probably will be in your area. Truthfully, although we have always had to drive for playdates (as hardly anyone lives where we do), it's really never been a problem. Distance is relative. And don't worry about spending ''half your life'' driving. As time goes on, you'll look forward to carpool opportunities when they arise.
The thing that outweighs everything is really the friendships that we have gained through being a part of the Tehiyah community. We have made life-long friends at TDS.
OHDS is also a great school. Rather than choose based on how much driving you'll do, make your decision based on what you want out of the school and for your child. Both schools are great, but they are different. For me, TDS is a great place where I know my kids are getting a superb education in a safe environment. I like the mission statement of the school. I love the kids, teachers, staff, and families. We are truly a close knit community.
So look at both schools closely. Go on tours. See what resonates with you.
Wish you all the best in your decision. Marcia
We are a non-orthodox Berkeley family who chose OHDS and couldn't be happier with the decision. I think we're about middle of the road in terms of observance at OHDS (I'm writing this on Friday night after my Shabbat dinner guests have left!). There's quite a range, from happily secular to orthodox. The school has a modern orthodox point of view and mission, but always feels very inclusive and non-judgmental.
I think that both OHDS and Tehiyah offer great education and communities. We chose OHDS because OHDS aims for a 50/50 split between Judaic Studies/Hebrew and General Studies (reading, math, science, etc.). This is very intense, but is exactly what we were looking for in a Jewish day school -- a major focus on torah and Hebrew.
Logistics matter, of course. Our daughter has long days to get to the bus on time and such, so if you could easily drive your child to school, that could certainly simplify things. I think that kids live all over and attend both schools, so there will certainly be some shlepping for birthday parties and playdates, whichever school you choose.
I hope that you spend some time touring both schools, and have an easy time deciding which is a better fit for your family!
Editor Note: this discussion is also archived to the page for Tehiyah Day School
We are extremely happy with our choice to send our daughter to OHDS. She loves school and her teachers (who are outstanding), has made many friends, and feels very much a part of the nurturing school community.
We wanted to send our child to a Jewish Day school for a solid Jewish education, but without sacrificing anything academically in the General Studies arena. We have not been disappointed. OHDS has a very solid academic curriculum, both in general studies and Judaica. A curriculum guide was distributed to parents this past Fall which outlines the K-8 General and Judaic Studies curricula. We are incredibly impressed with its contents,and grateful to have our child in a school which is so committed to providing such an excellent education.
Another important feature of a Jewish day school, for us, was for Jewish values to be taught and encouraged. Even at the Kindergarden level we see that every day Jewish values are part of the learning process. In addition, the small classes enable the teachers to know the needs of each child well, and create a warm communal atmosphere. OHDS also has excellent enrichment programs, including a fantastic art program, music, computers, PE, etc.
We are not orthodox, and we have felt very comfortable at OHDS since there is such a wide range of observance levels, and a non-judgemental atmosphere.
We encourage anyone who is considering Jewish day school as an option to visit OHDS and see the wonderful things that are happening there! Debbie
At OHDS our two children are academically challenged,mentored by outstanding teachers, and we have all made our life long friends. One of the saddest days in our lives will be when our daughter graduates in two years and we leave this incredible community. OHDS has:
*Excellence in general studies-OHDS graduates are thriving in top schools. Students transferring to or from OHDS comment on the academic superiority of OHDS.
*A dual curriculum enhances the child-nothing is compromised in general studies.
*Four specialty classes -Art, Physical Education, Computer Lab, and Music
*A parent community second to none! We have an extremely involved parent body who enjoy adult education, socials and fun volunteer activites at the campus.
*8th grade trip to Israel! OHDS is the only school in the East Bay to take it's students to Israel for more than 10 days in May.
*Boys and girls are taught together with equal expectations
*Full time resource room-4 specialty teachers meet a broad spectrum of learning needs.
Choosing a school for your child and for your family is difficult,but when it's right, magic can happen...it did for us at OHDS. Good luck! lask
Our daughter is flourishing at Oakland Hebrew Day School. We are an interfaith family, and our level of observance at home is not close to the level at school. Our daughter already understands that home and school are different and knows how to follow the practice at each. Unlike Orthodox day schools in other parts of the country, there is no pressure to conform, just to be observant within the context of the school to make the school fit the wide range of levels of observance.
The academics are outstanding. In K-3, the children are stretched, with a focus on learning how to learn and meeting them at their level of ability. Our daughter really loves the Hebrew education. If you ask her her favorite thing about school, she says it is the teachers, and the after-school programs (she is doing sports, school play and ceramic arts).
We have heard that starting in 4th grade the academics are very rigorous. One way Oakland Hebrew Day maintains individual attention is the student-teacher ratio. In a class of 20 kids, there are 2 teachers and an aide. In a class of less than 20, there are still 2 full-time teachers, and there are additional specialists (e.g., art, computers). jb
Oakland Hebrew Day School has been great for my children and family in so many ways. We are an interfaith family and far from modern Orthodox; however it has been very easy for us to make a home at OHDS. The community is open, engaging, warm, and all over the place in terms of “levels of observance.” We have felt welcomed and embraced completely. Children are not taught that there is a wrong way to practice Judaism at OHDS.
What has truly impressed me over the past 3 years that we have been at the school is the individualized approach that the school, administration and especially teachers have to teaching the children at the school. My older child has issues that require a level of understanding of “different” children, as well as a willingness to accept and adapt. Each year, I have watched the teachers adapt, be curious, and even grow with my child. When problems arise, a meeting is called and we all work on it together.
This individualized approach is also visible in the way that OHDS provides extra support for children who are either advanced or require additional support. Both of my children are academically advanced, and for both of them, the school has, without any request from me, placed them in reading or math or other groups that challenge them at their particular levels. I am thrilled at the academic progress that both of my children have made at OHDS.
At the same time, I love the other kinds of learning that I see my children doing at OHDS. My kindergartner tells me stories of how he is “being his higher self”, a concept and language he learned and surprisingly absorbed in class. My older son tells me that he got two mitzvah, or good deed, pins from peers for helping them during the day. The kids are learning to be kind and thoughtful and to appreciate one another’s gestures independent of a teacher. This learning to be a ''mensch,'' carries over into the playyard, which is actually a very kind place. Kids do not exclude, they are taught to work problems out, and if they need help, teachers or administrators help in resolving conflicts. And finally, while I personally was most anxious about incorporating morning prayer into my children’s education, it is now one of my favorite aspects of my kids’ learning at the school. They are learning to appreciate and be thankful, to start the morning singing with heart and conviction, and to consider giving tsedakah or charity every morning to someone else or a cause outside of them.
I believe families from a variety of religious backgrounds could flourish at OHDS, and feel very fortunate that my children and family are a part of the school and community. lg
The classes are small. The teachers are truly very good. All could be teaching elsewhere but come to OHDS because they want to be at a Jewish Day School. More advanced students progress as fast as they can. But, nobody gets left behind. Next year we are moving to a new campus which will improve the environment.
Both the Jewish and secular studies have impressed me. The parents and other students are a real bonus.
p We have two children at OHDS now and look forward to our third attending soon. eg
I am interested in sending my son to a Jewish day school. I am wondering what people thought of Oakland Hebrew Day school vs. Tehiyah Day School. If you have recommendations of either individually that is great or a comparison if you looked at both and choose one. I am also interested in knowing if a family who does not observe Shabbat would fit in at Oakland Hebrew Day School. Thank you for your help. -looking for a good Jewish education
My son is in 9th grade now, so my experience is from 6 years ago. The school had been open only a year when we started there. I do not know how things have changed (or not changed). For us, it was a perfect fit for my child's needs at the time. Good Luck! Patti
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