Despite quite a few good things that can be said about Brookside, such as uniform student demographics, parental involvement, some lunch time programs, OK test scores (although on 2015 Common Core BES performed the worst of all OP schools and much worse than Willow and Woodland Hills Elem.), we feel that disadvantages outweigh all the advantages and will be leaving the district after this year. The disadvantages I consider worth mentioning. 1. Amount of TV watching and computer time in the classrooms. Students are shown a full sized animation every 2-3 weeks and get daily TV time on rainy days and the week before holidays. Students are rewarded with an hour of computer game time on Chromebooks 2-3 times a week. For parents not keen on the idea of daily TV/computer game time that is something to be aware of. 2. So called "customized Common Core program". Customized CC program created by the district and adopted by BES has all challenging assignments removed from the workbooks. Students are reminded every week not to do problems marked as challenging as part of homework. Customized math program with more difficult topics removed (i.e. topic on the order of operations, including parenthesis, is removed so students are ask to memorize distributive property without understanding its meaning) results in big gaps in the flow of logic and makes homeschooling/tutoring mandatory. 3. New district schedule. Starting this year OPUSD school year runs mid august - mid may (Aug, 11 2015 - May, 27 2016) and is not synch'ed with any of the local summer camp programs. The new schedule combined with the total absence of school-run afterschool/summer program creates a real problem for families with working parents. Afterschool care in Mae Boyar Park already has a long waiting list. 4. Campus safety. As BES doesn't have a fence around the perimeter and doesn't keep the gate on Conifer locked, the sports/PE field and upper grade playground are used by local dog owners as an off-leash dog park. This situation alone was somewhat unsanitary and caused damaged to the sports field, but was never taken seriously. After several students were attacked by dogs (thankfully no bad injuries) last week during the lunch break, we longer feel that our child is safe at school. Considering the amount of wildlife in the area, and number of coyotes seen on the streets I'm even more concerned.
This school is probably no worse than any other school in the area if your child does not have a learning disability. However, it can turn into a true nightmare for families of kids having any kind of learning disorder. Be prepared to be the one to bring issues regarding your child's academic performance to the attention of the teachers and administration, and not vice-versa. Don't anticipate teachers to have proper experience and qualification, my child's teacher actually expected me to tell her how my child should be taught. The school doesn't have a full time diagnostician, neither they have a plan in place on how to work with students with learning disorders or how to integrate them into a regular classroom. Despite being long time Oak Park residents we had to transferred our child into a neighboring district. I have met several other local families that had to leave OPUSD because of lack of interest and resources to work with their kids with learning disabilities. Although the review below praising BES of 10-12 years ago is very touching, one need to understand that the district and the school are not at all what they used to be 10-12 years ago. A decade ago the school used to hold on to every student to keep the funds, classes were small and teachers had time and incentive to work with each child individually. Now with dozens of out-of-the-district families on the waiting list and classrooms filled above the physical capacity the district neither wants to waste time and resources on educating "second class" students, nor they want to put their testscores at risk. Today's Oak Park district prefers to deal only with regular students, they no longer have any interest in working with children above or below the norm. Parents of children with learning disorders are getting told to either transfer to OP Independent school or leave the district altogether. It's too bad that when selecting a school most people are only comparing testcores without understanding how OP schools demographics is different from that of other local schools, and that high testcores at OP schools are not the result of having highly skilled and enthusiastic staff, smaller classes and better programs, but a result of removing not performing children from the classrooms and filtering out potentially problematic children and families when considering out-of-district applicants.
We also have had positive experiences at Brookside so I am surprised to read these negative reviews; we spent a lot of time researching schools before selecting Brookside as our elementary school and have been here now for almost four years and don't regret our decision to move here. Of course there are things that could be done better, as at any school, but it's a wonderful community of parents and teachers. As for the donations, having come from another district and having read up on the economics of California school funding, they really should look at other schools in detail. Title I Schools like Sumac receive a lot more funding from the state than OPUSD schools and are able to offer certain programs as a result. Donations are exactly that-just donations, not a cost of schooling--they are not mandatory. The programs are funded for the benefit of all children. If one cannot afford to donate, there are so many other ways to contribute to the community, but one would be hard pressed to find one elementary school that doesn't have a foundation or parent organization in place to help support music, computers, art, and more. The education is free, but the extra programs are made possible by those investing for the benefit of ALL students. Computer teacher time, Music teacher time, performances, Garden program, lunchtime enrichment programs, including a library book cart rolled out twice a week during lunch, LEGOs run by parent volunteers, CREATE Art on Your Campus, parent education, community events, and so many other programs offered. It's a wonderful community that supports a vast array of programs for our students to expand on their interests outside of the classroom. We feel very fortunate to be a part of this community.
My husband and I have had all four of our children attend Brookside Elementary. I am sorry to read some of the negative reviews others have given this great school, because I do not agree with them at all. My children were not the top students in the class, and often received support from programs at Brookside to get them on track academically. My oldest children are now extremely successful high schoolers (at OPHS) and I attribute that to the strong foundation they received from caring teachers and aides during those early elementary years. Oak Park is known for its rigorous curriculum, however they focus just as much on developing citizens who contribute to their community. There is a character counts attribute focused on each month, highlighted during school assemblies, and whenever my child was having difficulty socially with a peer, the principal and teachers were consistently there to problem solve with us. As far as a well rounded education, there are musical performances, lunchtime enrichment activities, a wonderful computer lab with assignments each week that compliment the classroom curriculum, a strong (and fun!) PE program with wonderful coaches, art docents in the classrooms, a district science specialist that spearheads trips to the Channel Islands for the upper elementary students, the list could go on and on. The administration has taken the lead in educating the parents on the new Common Core Standards and supporting us as we all try to provide homework help to our students. There are parenting seminars led by the counselor and many fun activities aimed for families planned by the PTA. To say that Brookside is a great school is an understatement. It is a fantastic school, and while not every organization is perfect, at the heart of it are teachers, parents and administrators working together to the best of their ability to provide a rigorous and appropriate education to students. I would with my whole heart and no reservations recommend letting your child be a Brookside Tiger!
It is very hard to rate Brookside. There are some things I would give a 4-5 and others I'd give a 1-2.
I have two children at Brookside and have been here for a full five years.
Some teachers are fantastic. There are a few that are much below fantastic. The school has cliches a plenty. Some of which are very aloof and entitled. The two principals at the school were/are nothing to write home about.
There is significant parent participation which helps with the overcrowded classrooms.
This school (and probably the district) has been resting on their laurels. The enrichment opportunities, curriculum, teaching methods, ability to listen and respond, inclusivity, and many other nationally embraced aspects of excellence in schooling are not found here. I would say they are in fact behind the times and seem pretty set in their ways.
The school is expensive for a public school - classes and their "requests for donations". It is a school for entitled and affluent families.
Brookside is an insanely expensive school (feels a bit odd to say so about a public school). Had recently mentioned the cost of the afterschool classes run by Brookside to another parent with a child attending one of the Conejo elementaries and was shocked to learn that they pay 1/3 of the amount Brookside charges and have 4 times more different classes plus the school band and instrument classes. 2015 Fall semester prices for 1 hour/week classes for comparison. **Homework club** Brookside $135/Conejo school $49-$65, **Chess** Brookside $135/Conejo $65, **Briks4Kidz** Brookside $145/$Conejo $65, **Art classes** Brookside $135/Conejo $65. Plus Conejo school has Soccer, Tennis, Basketball, Martial Art, and Theater for around the same $65-70 per semester. Clearly Brookside principal has her point when she often reminds Brookside families that attending a school in such an affluent neighborhood as Oak Park comes with the price, but it is still not clear to me why everything has to be 2-3 times more expensive at Brookside than at Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks schools. Another thing I don't understand is why when it comes to cost comparison our school principal always compares prices at Brookside to that at schools located in much more expensive neighborhoods like Hidden Hills, Calabasas and Morrison Ranch of Agoura Hills, but when it comes to reporting test results Brookside is ranked against Ventura county schools that on average have much higher % of socially disadvantaged families and non-English speakers.
I still remember how during the school tour the principal bragged extremely proudly about the things the school does to foster the love for reading. I was completely sold on all the opportunities. Now I can tell that none of the things mentioned turned out to be true. First my perfectly fluently reading first grader was told to stop asking for more advanced texts and just keep on reading "cat sat on a mat". I thought to myself, 'OK, we must have got not such a good teacher, looking at what other people are saying we are not the only one'. Nevertheless I was telling my child to stay positive. Now is the worst part. As it turned out Brookside students are allowed to visit the school library ONLY 30 MINUTES a WEEK during the library class. That's all, people!!! Kids are NOT allowed to enter the library during the lunch break or after school. This rule means no quiet relaxing 20 minutes at lunch with a book at a cozy and cool corner in the library, no chance to meet another booklover from a different grade or class. I'm devastated to say the least. As I was explained Brookside library is used exclusively during once a week class, during the school board members visits when these people decide to read kids a book and during the school tour. On the school days the library is totally out of reach for the students. That's complete nonsense. For my older child, for my friends' kids in every districts from LAUSD to Burbank, Anaheim and Irvine the school library was and IS always the CENTER of the school life. Library is the place where kid having a bad day can rewind a bit, a place to escape the heat, a place to meet another Harry Potter fan, a place for reading club meetings, a place to do homework after school and many many more. Brookside kids are deprive from these wonderful experiences and parents are misled. If your child is a little bookworm or you want him to develop the love for reading and meet friends sharing the same passion, please do your child a favor, stay away from this school. Reading is not a part of this school's daily life.