Wednesday, October 22, 2014

School Tour: Presidio Hill

I am really not sure how I felt about Presidio Hill School.

I liked parts of it, felt some parts were too much, didn't like other aspects of the school ( besides tuition ;). This post is really for me to sort through these thoughts.

We made our way across to Presidio Hill, had light traffic, found parking challenges and finally made it  to the school a few minutes after the tour had officially started. Parent volunteers greeted us at the door and escorted us to the library, where the rest of the group was assembled listening carefully to the headmaster Scott Duyan.

I really liked the parent volunteers. Very friendly. Casually dressed and not snooty. In contrast there were a lot of brand name bags/shoes/watches and an air of importance in the roomful of hopeful parents. Not Chanel or Prada but designer nonetheless. It could be my insecurities but I did notice this as did my husband. It was my lesson for future private school visits - hopeful private school parents dress up!

The headmaster focused on schools philosophy of education, progressive differentiated learning, hands on projects based curriculum to help students learn the "process" and not focus on answer. He mentioned how in Maths class for instance they would talk/discuss how the solution was arrived at rather than whether the answer is right or wrong. This really impressed me.

After the Q& A, we were led by parent volunteers to tour the school. We went with the TK group as our son would be eligible for TK. The TK classroom was small but bright. The kids were working on the table doing their arts/crafts thing. A parent volunteer helped. Kids were not distracted by us but kept working. As kids were done with their work, they went about solving a big picture puzzle or reading a book.

The TK classroom has a yard right outside their classroom which I could totally see my son spending all his time on. Next we went to K classroom where the teacher was teaching phonetics in a very traditional way. She said the letter and what it sounds like and the kids repeated and went on to write it out. One parent commented on this style teaching and the parent volunteers were unsure about it. There were responses like different teachers have different styles to kids have to learn their alphabets right?

To be very honest it, it put me off- but I am not sure how else do kids learn alphabets?

The other reaction was based on what my son is doing in preschool now. He is learning phonics and alphabets. And trying to write. If we do send my son to TK then he will be doing this essentially for next 2 years. While I am all for not being too academic and be more fun in early education years; I am thinking hard about paying $$$ for things that will be repetitive/ what he already may know by then.

We saw a few upper grade classrooms ( don't recall exact grades). But the way science is taught in class rooms, the school has stewardship of mountain lake and kids pitch in to maintain/clean it, was very cool. the upper grades also go on overnight trips to Catalina island to learn Marine Biology. Which while exciting fell in a "feels live over the top" category to me.

I liked their well stocked library, use of ipad's in classroom and generally well kept facility. The classrooms are small though bright and cheerful. This coupled with small class sizes ensures that the teacher can literally stand in one place and keep an eye out on all kids.

The school has an roof top play area which is also used for recess. PE classes are in Julius Kahn which I love as a location.  Music is part of curriculum and we saw the class in action drumming and thumping along. There is after care for a fee with lot of enriching and entertaining options which are changed seasonally.

The school is less diverse than public schools - it stood out glaringly to me.

We also saw the new building that they have acquired to expand their campus. This is where the TK and K classes will be housed. Its a beautiful house and they are in the process of converting it into classrooms and will be ready for Fall 2015 class.

If we were eligible for K class, I would pursue Presidio Hill further. At TK and with the huge tuition I have second thoughts. Maybe we need to see a few other privates to compare/contrast.

Which other private schools have a TK? Or accept late summer boys? I will probably modify my school tour list to focus on those.

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